Canadian Horse Journal - WESTERN CANADA - Spring 2021

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11722 272nd Street, Maple Ridge, BC MLS# R2518748 • $2,688,000

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How horses and humans learn, adapt, and grow.

52 Adventures in Solo Horse Packing

44 Single Pole Exercises

Just one pole? Simple exercises can sometimes be the most effective.

48 Equestrian Guilt

Riders experience a lot of guilt in response to an amazing variety of circumstances.





Three pack trips, three grizzly bears, and nineteen days in Canada’s Southern Rocky Mountains

64 How to Choose Your Perfect Riding Vacation

There are questions to ask before giving up your hard-earned dollars for that dream vacation on horseback.



ON THE COVER: A horse is such a thing of beauty… None will tire of looking at him. — Xenophon PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/ARTHORSE









HORSE HEALTH 10 Your Horse and B Vitamins

24 Rainy Day Horse Care

16 Breathtaking: Equine Respiratory Diseases

28 Better Breathing in the Barn

In some situations, supplementing B vitamins may be the right option.

Diseases of the respiratory system can significantly limit a horse’s ability to perform at full potential.

22 Rain Rot


How to diagnose, treat, and prevent this wet weather menace. www.HORSE



Persistent rainfall can create challenges for equine care and impact your horse’s health.

What can be done to manage dust and improve air quality in horse facilities?

38 Arena Dust

Reduce the risk of exposure to crystalline silica dust in riding arenas.

2, 43 To Subscribe 3, 75 Country Homes & Acreages 8 Editorial & Letters 72 Horse Council BC News 75-77 The Hoofbeat 78 Canadian Quarter Horse 79

Association News

Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association

80 Manitoba Horse Council News 81, 82, 84 83 83

Book Reviews

Meet Our Contributors Index to Advertisers





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EDITOR’S DESK Spring shedding — it’s how horse people know that winter will soon be over! This time last year as our Spring issue went to press, we were hearing the warnings from the World Health Organization about the seriousness of the growing pandemic, preparing to move the majority of our staff to home offices, and like everyone else, wondering what the future would hold. Now a whole year later, vaccine distribution has begun and we’re starting to believe that life will feel somewhat more normal later this year. In our conversations with readers and businesses, we sense a feeling of hopefulness and confidence in the horse community. Bring it on! Are you feeling stall-bound? Stagnant? Stir crazy?? We’re all eager to get out and kick up our heels, and we all need something to look forward to. So, with spring in the air and the pandemic in retreat, perhaps planning for a horseback holiday is just what the doctor ordered. Although this year a staycation in our home province might be the wisest choice, we can still dream of adventures farther afield when travel bans are lifted. Two articles in this issue will get you yearning for your holiday saddle.

As a photojournalist specializing in horseback riding vacation features, Shawn Hamilton has travelled the world. Like the rest of us, her wings were clipped this past year due to the pandemic, but she’s craving her next excursion once it’s safe to travel. For her practical advice on how to scratch a horseback holiday itch, from rustic to pampered and everything in between, turn to How to Choose Your Perfect Riding Vacation on page 64. Tania Millen’s ideal horseback holiday is a trail less followed. Last summer she headed out alone with a pack horse in tow to experience the spectacular wilderness of Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Her 19-day solo pack trip, complete with a visit from three not-solittle grizzly bears, is chronicled in Solo Horse Packing Adventures in Canada’s Southern Rocky Mountains on page 52. Our wonderful writers have created a sumptuous spread of informative and thought-provoking articles for this issue — check out the menu on our Contents Pages. Until next issue — stay safe and enjoy sheddin’ season! Kathy

LETTERS Comp Copy Appreciation Thank you to our friends at the great Canadian Horse Journal. Not only for the helpful and interesting articles, but for sharing so generously with us and our team! Ultimately, the horses enjoy better lives because of our continuing education. Thanks to you. Brave-Hearts Riding Club, ON

Living By The Code (CANADA’S EQUINE GUIDE 2021)

Thank you, Shelagh Niblock, for bringing awareness to the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines with your article in the 2021 issue of Canada’s Equine Guide. Requirements within the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals refer to regulatory requirements, or an industry-imposed expectation outlining acceptable practices and fundamental obligations relating to the care of farm animals. Code requirements are referenced in 8




many but not all Canadian federal, provincial, or municipal regulatory jurisdictions. As written in the Living by the Code article, Codes of Practice are intended to be used as an educational tool in the promotion of sound animal husbandry and care practices. Survey results indicate the equine Code is underutilized; therefore, Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada (HWAC) is leading development of an equine Code awareness and education program. Anyone who owns, works with, or is interested in horses is encouraged to access information at All levels within the equine spectrum from Pony Club members to racetrack personnel were involved in the development of the program. Additional information respecting equine welfare and the equine Code is available on Mikki Shatosky, HWAC Executive Director

b Your Horse b Your Passion b Your Magazine Published by Horse Community Journals Inc.

Volume 21 • Issue 4 Spring 2021 Issue (Mar/Apr) of Canadian Horse Journal EDITOR / PUBLISHER Kathy Smith ACCOUNTS Geri Pronovost ADVERTISING April D. Ray • Terry Andrucko • Janna Reimer SOCIAL MEDIA April D. Ray SUBSCRIPTIONS Steve Smith MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION Janna Reimer ART DIRECTION, PRODUCTION Elisa Crees CONTRIBUTORS Margaret Evans • Tania Millen • Shawn Hamilton April D. Ray • Jec Ballou • Shelagh Niblock Annika McGivern • Alexa Linton WCVM • HCBC • MHC • CanTRA • CQHA ADVERTISING, SUBSCRIPTIONS & GENERAL INQUIRIES 1-800-299-3799 • 250-655-8883 or email: ADVERTISING DEADLINE 4 weeks prior to issue date e.g., Oct.1 for Winter (Nov/Dec) issue. ONLINE EDITION


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REPRODUCTION IN WHOLE OR IN PART OF ANY MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THIS PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE WRITTEN PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED. The information and services listed herein are intended to facilitate accessibility to the professionals, products and services that play a part in the horse industry. While readers are encouraged to use the products and services of the merchants listed in this Guide, Horse Community Journals Inc. does not recommend or guarantee the products and services of advertisers or associates listed. Manuscripts and photographs will be returned only if SASE is provided. The return of unsolicited material is not guaranteed. Contributors and advertisers warrant all materials supplied are free of copyright and they have the legal right to use the same. All material accepted for publication is subject to such revisions as are deemed appropriate by Canadian Horse Journal (CHJ). The opinions expressed in CHJ are not necessarily those of the publisher. CHJ reserves the right to refuse any advertising or submission. Contributors consent to have their submissions published in CHJ and on and elsewhere as determined by the publisher. Printed in Canada. Please recycle.



The Value of Coach Licencing SOURCE: CAPRICMW INSURANCE

The year 2021 is upon us and with this new decade comes new coaching credential requirements from Equestrian Canada in the form of a Coach Status Program. As equestrian coaches across Canada grapple with the new requirements, it’s worth considering how this all came about, and why. Over the past 30 years, our collective understanding of the potential for injury and death in equestrian sport has increased, along with our aversion to risk. Studies have confirmed that some of the highest rates of concussion in amateur sport involve horseback riders. As a result, helmet technology has evolved, and collapsible jumps are the norm. The #MeToo movement and court cases brought against sexually abusive coaches highlighted the need to prevent maltreatment such as physical, sexual, and psychological abuse in sport. Subsequently, SafeSport training was created. But what about equestrian coaching activities and certification? How have they evolved with the times? Mike King explains. He’s a partner at CapriCMW Insurance and their National Manager of Equine Programs, and has been discussing insurance and risk-reducing tactics with horse industry clients across Canada for nearly 30 years. King says that in 2018, Canada’s Minister of Sport mandated Canada’s amateur sports leaders to take steps to address the potential

maltreatment of athletes in their sports. In response, Equestrian Canada (EC), the national sport organization for the horse industry, identified a number of issues within its existing coach certification framework and committed to updating its programming. In doing so, EC decided that a credentialing system — the new Coach Status Program — would be the most effective way to address the issues identified. Equestrian coach certification has been available for many different disciplines for years. But the new EC Coach Status Program is not discipline-specific; it addresses general coaching requirements for all equestrian coaches and is comparable to the coaching requirements for other amateur sports across the country. So, the new EC Coach Status Program fulfills the mandate laid out by the Minister of Sport with regards to coaching, but more importantly, confirms to equestrian sport participants that EC Coaches have completed standardized training in first aid, concussion awareness, understanding of maltreatment in sport, and the importance of insurance. King says, “Coaches and trainers are the most important people in any sport. They are the touch point. The coach/trainer environment is where Mom brings her 12-year-old for their first riding lesson, where an adult comes back to the sport, and where athletes learn the skills necessary to compete. It is

the coach/trainer who makes the difference between a good or bad experience — with lasting consequences.” “I think consumers are more savvy than we give them credit for,” King explains. “When they ask questions about the credentials of a riding coach, the response now needs to be more than I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Doing it for 30 years and being certified, credentialed, engaged in the profession, and committed to continuous education is the right answer. And it’s those attributes that will help to sustain and elevate the sport.” Ultimately, King states, “As insurers, we have always recognized the value of formalized training and credentials from a risk assessment and management perspective. The Coach Status Program is about elevating the [coaching] profession and embracing professional development and lifelong learning as a part of the sport.” Horse sport is an industry that generates billions of dollars of economic activity for the country and employs tens of thousands of people. King says, “We are in a high-risk sport, and nothing is more important to the long-term viability of our (horse) community than the well-being of human and equine participants.” Hopefully, equestrians of all disciplines will recognize the value of a standardized coaching credential, just as every other Canadian amateur sport has, and EC’s Coach Licence — or a version of it — will become integral to Canada’s modern horse industry. SPRING 2021







B Vitamins





oday’s horse owners are no doubt aware of the importance of vitamins in the diets of their horses, but many may not be aware of the role vitamins play in equine nutrition. Vitamins in their fresh natural form are organic substances found in grains and forages. They are important as cofactors, or facilitators, for different metabolic function, and deficiencies of them can cause disease conditions. Vitamins, unlike many of the nutrients we feed our horses, cannot be broken down for energy, and they provide no other nutrients to the horse. They have widely different structures and are soluble in either fat or water depending on their structure. Vitamins

Are you providing enough? By Shelagh Niblock, PAS

are classified according to their solubility. The fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K, and the water-soluble vitamins include the large group of B vitamins and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). The natural forms of most vitamins are present in plant material or the plant material contains the precursors necessary for the horse to manufacture them, either metabolically themselves or through a mutually beneficial association with gut microbes. The fat-soluble vitamins are stored primarily in the liver, and for that reason, it is possible to feed the horse more than required. On the other hand, the water-soluble vitamins of the B group and vitamin C are excreted in the urine or manure if fed in higher quantities than required; consequently, toxicities of these vitamins are rare.



Fresh forage is the best way to provide your horse with B vitamins.

Fresh forage is the best source of vitamins

Fresh pasture is still the best source of vitamins and vitamin precursors for both the fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamin categories. Grains can be a good source of some vitamins as well. Differences in both processing and preserving forages and grains can affect the amount and viability of the vitamins present naturally. Similarly, storing forage as hay will result in a rapid decline of natural vitamins in forages. All complete feeds available for horses are supplemented with the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E. There is, however, no requirement under Canada’s Feeds Act and Feeds Regulations for horses to include water-soluble vitamins in complete feeds, primarily because it has been difficult to prove under research conditions that there is an improvement in equine health if they are added. B vitamins, even if they are supplemented, cannot be listed on the tag of the feed you buy if the feed is not registered with the Canadian Feed Inspection Agency (CFIA), but manufacturers of high quality equine feeds often do include at least B1 thiamine, B2 riboflavin, and B3 niacin in the formulation of their equine complete feeds. There is no requirement for vitamin C supplementation in equine feed in Canada because horses are capable of manufacturing their own.

Is my horse getting enough vitamin C?

Horses manufacture their own vitamin C in the liver, but because

vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, it has been of interest to researchers as a potentially valuable addition to the diets of performance horses. What research has shown, though, is that it takes a lot of vitamin C (over three grams daily) to actually make a difference in serum levels of ascorbic acid, and as a result, it is difficult to provide it in amounts great enough to make a significant difference to the horse. In addition, there has been some suggestion in research that supplementing performance horses with vitamin C may actually down-regulate their own ability to manufacture it. For this reason, it is advisable to step-down gradually the inclusion of vitamin C in the diet of your horse if you have been supplementing it.

Is my horse getting enough B vitamins?

The group of B vitamins of interest in equine diets includes choline, B1 thiamine, B2 riboflavin, B3 niacin, B5 pantothenic acid, B6 pyroxidine, B7 biotin, B9 folic acid, and B12 cobalamin. All except B12 are provided in fresh forage or by the mutually beneficial metabolic processes of the gut microbes. Cobalamin B12 is manufactured by the microbes in the small and large intestine of the horse only and not found in forage. Horses need a source of cobalt in their diets to facilitate the manufacture of cobalamin SPRING 2021




What role do the B vitamins play?

The B vitamins are diverse in their function, but only two of them — B1 thiamin and B2 riboflavin — have had a minimum dietary intake recommended by the 2007 National Research Council (NRC) Nutrient Requirements of Horses.

source of it is brewer’s yeast. Vitamin B2 riboflavin is an important cofactor in energy metabolism. Deficiencies have never been proven in horses, but in other species, deficiency of it has been linked to poor hair coat, dermatitis and eye problems. The best natural feed sources are green leafy forages, like alfalfa and clover, and to a lesser degree, grass forages. Vitamin B3 niacin is important for energy metabolism and is believed to be important for calcium metabolism as well. Horses can manufacture niacin in the liver, but it is also supplied by the

A rapid decline in natural vitamins occurs in forage stored as hay.

The rest have been shown to have specific functions and, in some cases, deficiencies and toxicities have been determined in research, but these have been very difficult to reproduce reliably.

hindgut microbes. A deficiency has never been demonstrated in horses, suggesting that a sufficient supply is provided through a combination of diet, microbial growth, and healthy liver function.

Thiamin, riboflavin and niacin

The role of biotin

Vitamin B1 thiamin is significant in carbohydrate metabolism and manufacture of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an important molecule in the cellular energy cycle in horses. Thiamin is perhaps best known in the equine world as a calming nutrient and is often recommended for horses with anxiety or spookiness. Thiamin deficiency can lead to bradycardia (slower than normal heart rate), anorexia (reduced appetite) and ataxia (instability caused by neurological dysfunction). Thiamin is the suggested treatment for horses that have consumed excessive amounts of the weeds marestail (horseweed), bracken fern, or Queen Anne’s Lace, and an excellent





Vitamin B7 biotin is essential for cell proliferation and reproduction. Biotin is most often supplemented for improved hoof wall and hair coat quality, and although NRC has not established a minimum biotin intake for horses, it does recommend that horses get at least 10 to 30 mg per day of supplemental biotin. Virtually all of our favourite hoof supplements contain biotin but do make sure when reviewing tags that the product you buy provides at least 10 mg (10,000 μg) daily.

Folate and the pregnant mare

Also known as folate when in its naturally occurring form, vitamin B9


by the gut microbial population, while niacin can be manufactured by the horse or by the gut microbes. Sufficient supplies of B vitamins for most horses basically boils down to the provision of good quality forage and healthy hindgut function.

folic acid is an important B vitamin. Folate’s role is prominent in the rapid cell growth of tissues, or where rapid turnover of cells is needed. Folate deficiency has not been described in horses, but research has shown that the need for this vitamin increases in horses engaged in intense exercise, or in a state of lactation, growth, or gestation. Folate is provided either by the microbes in the hindgut or from fresh forage, but as many of our horses do not get fresh forage in significant quantities, supplementing this vitamin can be advisable. Of particular concern are the very significant effects the drug treatments sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine have on folate production in horses. These drugs are used in the treatment of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), and they appear to affect the microbial synthesis of folate in horses. If treatments are short, then the horse can recover the ability to produce this important vitamin, but unfortunately, treatment for EPM can be a lengthy process, which can make this a cause for concern. Certainly, this is something that should be discussed with your veterinarian if you do have a horse with EPM, as it seems that simply supplementing your horse with synthetic folic acid is not helpful. In the case of pregnant mares treated for EPM, use of these medications runs the risk of delivering foals with congenital defects.

Other B vitamins

The B vitamins pantothenic acid B5, pyroxidine B6, choline, and cobalamin B12 are often grouped together as there have never been deficiencies or toxicities reported in horses for any of them. All are important for energy metabolism. Choline is included in the group of B vitamins as it has many similar characteristics and is very important for cell membrane function and the transmission of nerve impulses. Cobalamin B12 is important for the function and maintenance of red blood cells, and is manufactured by microbes in the hindgut from dietary cobalt in horses. Experimental increases in cobalt intake have increased levels of serum B12, but excretion of B12 goes up when horses are supplemented with this vitamin by injection. Because of the potential increase in serum B12 through increased dietary cobalt intake, and the potential effect that might have on red blood cells and resulting athletic performance, there have been discussions at the Canadian Para Mutual Association —

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• Late gestation mares with compromised hindgut capacity. If you have a performance horse, a senior horse, a growing horse, or a horse that fits into any of the above categories, then supplementation is probably advisable.

Brewer’s yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins.

B vitamins, there may be a place to augment them in the diet of your horse. B vitamins appear to be well supplied by the combined sources of feedstuff and microbial production, but there is evidence that quantities may be compromised in the following categories: the Canadian agency that regulates doping in performance horses — about regulating it in performance horse diets.

Does a mature, healthy horse eating quality forage need supplementation? For most horses, there is little reason to supplement B vitamins; however, because not all complete feeds are actually supplemented with

Feeding B vitamin supplements

Likely, the easiest way to ensure your horse has sufficient B vitamins is to choose, as much as you can, leafy green forages. Brewer’s yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins and is palatable and readily available. If you do choose to supplement with purchased products, check with an equine nutritionist for help in assessing what you might want to include in your feeding regimen. If you are feeding a complete feed, check the tag for the presence of B vitamins, and if they aren’t listed, contact the manufacturer or check the ingredient statement. Remember that unless a feed is registered with CFIA, it will not have the B vitamins listed on the guaranteed analysis. As well, you should be cautious if mixing B vitamins, as thiamin B1 is not compatible with riboflavin B2, and neither are compatible with cobalamin B12. Commercially made mixes of these vitamins will have each vitamin in coated form so as to avoid chemical interactions between them.

• Horses under stress due to illness or otherwise, with anorexia or reduced appetite; • Horses in intense training or undergoing a rigorous show schedule; • Horses who have undergone antibiotic treatment that might have reduced microbial populations in the hindgut; • Horses on high grain/low forage diets or poor forage diets;


Horses with demanding training or competition schedules may need supplemental B vitamins.





If your horse is mature, engaged in light work, and getting good quality forage including fresh pasture, then supplementing B vitamins may not be needed, but it may be advisable for performance horses, growing horses, and seniors. Supplementing B vitamins will not necessarily help your horse win the race or jump the jump, but it can help ensure overall health and an ability to withstand the rigours of a competitive life. Check the label of your feed bag, and if in doubt about B vitamin content, contact the manufacturer. Remember that CFIA tagging regulations prohibit the listing of B vitamins on the tag unless the feed is a registered product. As well, B vitamins are water-soluble, which means that if they are fed in excess of requirements, they are readily excreted from your horse’s body. For this reason, B vitamin toxicity is very rare and supplementing as part of a management plan for your horse is a safe and effective practice. b > Shelagh Niblock is a regular contributor to this magazine. Read her bio on page 83.

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BREATHTAKING A Close Look at Equine

Respiratory Diseases


By Purdue Extension





Recurrent Airway Obstruction Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO) is a familiar disease that has changed names several times over the years. Also known as heaves or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the disease affects the horse’s lung. It is an inflammatory disease that causes constriction of the lower airways and accumulation of mucus. Human asthma has been used as a model for RAO research and can provide some insight as to what a horse might be experiencing.


The equine respiratory tract is responsible for many different functions and is, on a basic level, quite similar to the human respiratory tract. One of its primary functions is the exchange of oxygen between the lungs and the red blood cells, which allows oxygen to be delivered to tissues throughout the body and becomes especially important during exercise when the oxygen consumption of the tissues increases. Another important function is the clearance of irritants such as dust, ammonia, and bacteria, from the respiratory tract. This is done by filtering large dust particles in the nose, coughing, sneezing, and trapping irritants in the airway mucus. However, excess nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, and mucus secretion are all signs that a horse may be suffering from respiratory problems. Respiratory diseases can result from or be exacerbated by exposure to dust and other airborne irritants. Dust as well as bacteria, mold, and ammonia levels can irritate the horse’s respiratory tract and cause breathing difficulties. Dust particles come from a variety of sources including feed and bedding. Several studies have shown that wood shavings have a lower dust content than straw, and alternative forages such as hay cubes are less dusty than ordinary hay. The way in which equine facilities are managed and horses exercised can have significant effects on their exposure to respiratory irritants. This article will focus on respiratory diseases and conditions that often are seen during, or as a result of, exercise. The respiratory system is extensively studied because it is thought to be one of the main factors that limits a horse’s ability to perform at full potential.

Nasal discharge, laboured breathing, and cough are among the symptoms of recurrent airway obstruction.

RAO has signs similar to many other respiratory conditions, which can lead to difficulty in its diagnosis. A horse suffering from RAO may exhibit the following signs: • Cough • Nasal discharge • Laboured breathing • Reduced performance • Flared nostrils • Pronounced line along abdominal cavity RAO signs increase during exercise or when the horse is exposed to an especially dusty environment. Although specific respiratory tests can be performed, a veterinarian will usually make a diagnosis based upon clinical history, physical examination, and if the signs are reduced by administration of certain medications. Proper management of RAO can lead to a reduction in the clinical signs of the disease. One of the most important factors when considering management of a horse with RAO is reducing exposure to dust. Dust can be reduced by making changes to the stable environment and to the horse’s diet. Several studies have shown that even good quality hay has much higher dust content than other available forages, such as hay cubes. If replacing hay with another forage type is not an option, thoroughly soaking the horse’s hay with water prior to feeding has been shown to reduce the dust levels. A veterinarian can suggest ways to gradually change a horse’s diet and address RAO. Switching bedding is another way to reduce dust exposure in a stable

environment. Straw has been shown to have a higher level of dust than wood shavings, wood chips, and various alternative pellet forms of bedding. Dust levels can be 16 times higher while cleaning stalls and during other routine barn tasks, such as sweeping the aisles. It is advisable to move a horse out of the barn during these dust-generating tasks and for a few hours after completion. There are various drug-based therapeutic agents that can be used to manage RAO, although they are not substitutes for making environmental changes and not effective if the sole method of treatment. As long as a horse does not have summer pasture-associated RAO, turnout on pasture for as long as possible is strongly recommended. Summer pasture-associated RAO is a form of RAO that particularly affects horses in warmer climates such as Georgia and Florida, although cases can be seen anywhere. Signs are similar to RAO but usually don’t manifest themselves until the horse is grazing on pasture during the late summer. This signifies a lowered tolerance or allergic reaction to particular allergens and molds prevalent at that time of year. The treatment for summer pasture-associated RAO is identical to regular RAO, with the addition of not turning the horse out on pasture during that time of year.

Inflammatory Airway Disease Young Thoroughbred and Standardbred racehorses often present clinical signs of inflammatory airway disease (IAD), although it can affect a SPRING 2021




wider population of horses. The signs of IAD can range from reduced performance to more characteristic signs of respiratory infection. Some common signs are: • Coughing • Nasal discharge • Reduced exercise performance As can be seen, the signs of IAD are very similar to those of RAO and several other respiratory conditions seen in horses. A main difference is the age level at which the two diseases are seen. RAO most commonly is seen in older horses and IAD is more common in younger horses in training. Don’t be fooled: IAD can be seen in horses of all ages but RAO has not been seen in horses younger than six years of age. Dust exposure is thought to be at the root of IAD (Couëtil, 2007). The diagnosis of IAD or RAO often is made by a physical examination in combination with specific respiratory tests. Treatment is very similar to horses affected by RAO and begins with changes to the horse’s environment. Reducing dust levels through changes to feed and bedding can help. In addition, increasing the time a horse is turned out on pasture can be of benefit. Medical treatments for IAD vary depending on what the underlying cause is thought to be. Horses that have bacterial infections leading to IAD are usually treated with antibiotics, whereas those suffering from an allergy-like response are often treated with 18





Laryngeal hemiplegia (“Roaring”)


The most obvious sign of exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage is an apparent nosebleed during or shortly after exercise.


Reduce the dust in your horse’s environment by using bedding with wood shavings.

lungs during exercise. The most obvious clinical sign is what appears to be a nosebleed during or shortly after exercise, although seen in less than one percent of the horses that have EIPH. A link between reduction in performance — that is, placing in lower positions during races — and EIPH has been observed in several studies. Many horses are not actually diagnosed until one of several special respiratory examinations is performed right after a bout of exercise. Two common tests are bronchoalveolar lavage and tracheobronchoscopy. Treatment for EIPH includes use of drugs such as furosemide (Lasix® or Salix®). Furosemide has not been shown to prevent EIPH from occurring, but it reduces the severity of the condition. Another option is use of a nasal dilator strip (FLAIR® Nasal Strips) during exercise. Finally, a reduction in the intensity or frequency of exercise, or a “vacation,” can help treat EIPH.

corticosteroids. Medical treatment of the immune system also can be used to help the horse fight off infection or allergens (Couëtil et al 2007, and Couëtil 2008).

Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage Another disease often seen in racehorses and horses at higher levels of training is exercise induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH). Horses afflicted with EIPH have often been referred to as “bleeders.” This condition is brought about by short-term, strenuous exercise (racing, cross-country, barrel racing). EIPH is thought to be caused by the change in blood pressure inside a horse’s

Left recurrent laryngeal hemiplegia is brought about by a partial or complete paralysis of a portion of a horse’s upper respiratory tract. The area affected is the muscle pulling on the arytenoid cartilage and vocal fold. The arytenoids are part of the larynx and are attached to the horse’s vocal cords. While exercising, the paralyzed muscle will allow collapse of the arytenoids and vocal fold over into the larynx upon inspiration, causing a blockage of the airways. The condition often is referred to as “roaring” because of the noise that horses make while exercising. Horses with this condition often are called “roarers.” Signs of laryngeal hemiplegia include: • Roaring or whistling noise during inspiration (particularly while exercising) • Reduced performance • Uncharacteristic whinny In some cases, laryngeal hemiplegia is thought to be hereditary and appears to have a higher incidence in larger horses, particularly draft horses. Diagnosis is confirmed upon physical examination, which often includes endoscopic tests performed at rest and sometimes while the horse is running on a treadmill. Treatments for this condition include two different types of surgery. One option is commonly referred to as “tie-back” surgery. The surgeon will use sutures to pull back the affected arytenoid and permanently continues on page 20


Herbal Mixtures for Managing “Heaves” in Horses Respiratory disease is one of the most important health concerns facing the horse industry, and accounts for one of the biggest reasons why horses miss training days (Rossdale et al., 1985). Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO), also known as “heaves,” is one of the more troublesome small airway diseases which causes an elevated respiratory rate, chronic coughing and runny nose, and affected horses often find it difficult to exhale. In an experiment using six horses with RAO at a research barn at the University of Guelph, Ontario, investigators evaluated the ability of an herbal mixture (Breathe) to reduce symptoms of this chronic, debilitating disease. Horses were housed indoors under typical management conditions, half of them receiving Breathe (half cup twice daily) and the other half receiving a placebo (equal weight of chopped alfalfa) for three weeks. After three weeks, the horses were given a two-week break and the groups were then reversed and the trial was repeated with horses fed their supplements for another three weeks. Thus, each horse received the herbal supplement in one of the two experimental periods, each

lasting 21 days. A ventigraph was used once a week to very accurately measure each horse’s respiratory rate, and the effort required for them to breathe. Blood was also analyzed for changes in basic hematology and biochemistry to identify any possible side-effects. Results of this experiment demonstrated that when horses were receiving the herbal supplement, there was a significant decline in respiratory rate compared with when they were receiving the placebo. The difference between the herbal supplement and the placebo was statistically significant after one week and remained so for the remainder of the experiment. The product was found to be safe, with no adverse effects evident through the blood screens. These results demonstrate that this herbal mixture can be used to treat symptoms of chronic equine respiratory disease. Respiratory disease is a major concern in performance horses, and intensive research has not yet been able to find a cure for RAO. Herbs have been used with some success in treating chronic respiratory disease in horses (Sommer et al.,



1986) and other species (Aqel 1991), and this research provides additional support for this application. An increase in respiratory rate is a fundamental symptom of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease caused by a combination of constricted airways, accumulated mucous, and smooth muscle spasms. A reduction of the resting respiratory rate may reflect improvement in any one or a combination of these factors. Further research is required to discover the mechanism by which Breathe was able to reduce the respiratory rate in these horses.

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Even good quality hay has a high dust content. Exposure to dust in forage can be reduced by providing a low-dust feed such as pelleted complete feed, hay cubes, or soaked hay. If feeding from a round bale, unroll the bale, fork off the hay, and inspect it for dust and mold.

Equine athletes can be affected by a variety of diseases and conditions, which reduce their performance in mild cases and result in early retirement for others. This article does not replace the advice and/or diagnosis made by a veterinarian, but is meant to provide better understanding of performance-reducing respiratory conditions. Many of the diseases mentioned can be managed by changing the stable environment to reduce the levels of dust and airborne particulate matter. Various dietary and management changes can also be made to reduce the incidence of disease in a barn. Making these changes will not only be of benefit to a horse’s respiratory tract, but also to those working in the barn. b Printed with the kind permission of Katherine Smith, Kathleen Ivester, and Laurent Couëtil, Purdue University Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, SVM; Mark Russell, Purdue University Department of Animal Sciences.





Nasal strips reduce the effort needed to move air in and out of the lungs by supporting the nasal passages to improve airflow, reduce fatigue, and reduce lung bleeding.


position it in an “open” position. Another option is to remove portions of the arytenoid cartilage and, possibly, portions of the vocal cord. Complications can occur after surgery, although the benefits often outweigh the risks. In cases of complete laryngeal hemiplegia, the obstruction causes a decrease in oxygen consumption, which can be very troublesome at moderate to high levels of exercise. Surgery allows the majority of treated horses to return to prior levels of performance, while others often will lead a relatively normal life and continue to perform at some level.


Canadian Innovation Helps Horses with Asthma SOURCE: TRUDELL ANIMAL HEALTH

A diagnosis of asthma used to mean retirement for performance horses, or in some cases, euthanasia. But with advancements in research, good management, and the development of products that help heavey, coughing horses perform, now many riders can keep their wheezing horses comfortable and extend their lives.

Managing Asthma

Equine asthma is primarily caused by environmental conditions. Hence, an important treatment for asthma is to eliminate the causes by ensuring barn environments are well-ventilated and low-dust, providing good quality feed plus soaking or steaming hay, and exercising horses in low-dust arenas. Medical treatments are often focused on airway management. Corticosteroid medication may be used to counteract inflammation of the horse’s airways, and bronchodilators may be prescribed to open constricted airway passages. Historically, these drugs were given orally or by injection, thereby affecting the horse’s whole system, not just the problematic airways. But systemic drug use also requires higher dosages and can produce unwanted side effects and longer elimination times.


In 1995, Trudell Animal Health (Trudell) and University of Guelph created a nebulizer called the AeroMask* to deliver a drug-containing mist which the horse inhales. Since then, inhalation treatment has largely become the preferred way to treat equine asthma by veterinarians because:

• Medications are delivered directly to the airways for immediate relief rather than medicating the whole horse, and • There is decreased systemic absorption of drugs, which helps avoid unwanted health and behavioral side effects. However, the cost of a nebulizer mask and medication, and the time and complexity needed to use it, can be limiting. So, with inspiration from their AeroChamber* line of valved holding chambers for humans, and the help of veterinarians, a different solution was developed.

Inhalers and the AeroHippus* Chamber AeroHippus*

The Equine Aerosol Chamber was designed as a user-friendly, inexpensive, quick treatment for inflamed airways that riders could use when needed. The handheld device pairs veterinary-prescribed medication from a human-style asthma puffer or metered-dose inhaler, with a small chamber and mask that passively delivers the aerosol medication directly to the horse’s lungs via one nostril. It’s a made-in-Canada innovation with some interesting engineering. First off, because horses won’t inhale on command, the AeroHippus* Chamber was designed to capture and hold the medication until the horse breathes it in. Because the small medication particles are electrically charged, the chamber is made of anti-static materials that help prevent the particles from sticking and ensure that more of the medication remains available to be inhaled deep into the lungs. This enables the puffer to be activated shortly before applying the mask, reducing the potential for the horse to startle from the sound of the puffer and giving them more time to inhale the medication.

Inflammation and Cough Control

For daily inflammation management and relief from coughing flareups, the AeroHippus* Chamber provides flexibility to administer both corticosteroids and bronchodilators all through just one device. Its universal inhaler adapter means one chamber works with all commonly prescribed inhalers to help riders control inflammation and open constricted airways, as instructed by their veterinarian.

Administration and Acceptance

Since the AeroHippus* Chamber is simply held up to one nostril, it helps avoid the claustrophobic issues of a full mask. Designed to help keep the horse calm and comfortable during administration, the onesize-fits-all non-invasive chamber simply rests on the outside of the nostril. Feedback of correct use is provided through a visible Flow-Vu* indicator that moves to confirm the horse has actually inhaled. Barn tough and durable, the AeroHippus* Chamber can be reused whenever the horse has a flare-up, whether that’s today or next spring, preventing unnecessary disposal and environmental waste. The AeroHippus* Chamber helps make inhalation therapy fast and easy for anyone in or out of the barn.

Canadian Innovation

Embraced by the Thoroughbred racing industry and used by riders in a variety of horse sports as directed by their veterinarians, the AeroHippus* Chamber is a pretty neat invention made in London, Ontario by a company celebrating 99 years helping make Canadian lives better. For your other four-legged friends, AeroKat* and AeroDawg* Chambers are also available.

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How to Diagnose, Treat & Prevent


RAIN ROT in Horses By Brittani Kirkland, Extension Educator

When there are high volumes of rainfall, many horse owners may begin to see the presence of rain rot on their horses. Rain rot is a skin disease that can be frustrating to deal with, but with the right care can often be easily treated. Rain rot is a common condition during rainy seasons and horse owners should understand how rain may impact the health of their horses. While typically easily treated, rain rot should be addressed immediately to prevent worsening or spread. Rain rot, also called rain scald or dermatophilosis, is a skin infection caused by a bacterium known as Dermatophilus congolensis. Living on the horse’s skin, D. congolensis is mostly dormant, but under wet conditions, this bacterium can cause an inflammatory infection resulting in lesions on the horse’s skin. These lesions cause small patches of raised bumps, which are scabs containing clusters of the horse’s hair. Removal of these scabs results in bald patches along the affected area. In severe cases, lesions and scabs may become large and affect multiple layers of skin. When this occurs, the horse may need time off from riding until the infection clears. 22




While most often found on the horse’s topline, rain rot can be found on numerous other areas of the horse’s body, including the rump, face, and legs. Therefore, it is important that regular, thorough full-body examinations occur. Hands-on palpation may be needed when examining for rain rot, particularly during winter months, as increased coat length makes visual assessment difficult. Unlike many other skin conditions, areas with rain rot do not typically itch, but can be painful and cause the horse to become sensitive to touch. All horses can be affected by this condition; however, links with horse’s coat colours and immune status leading to a higher incidence of rain rot have been identified. Particularly, horses with lighter coat colours as well as horses with compromised or poorly-developed immune systems (such as young or older horses) have been found to be at higher risk. Specific environmental factors have also been identified. Rain rot most often

occurs when the skin has been compromised in some way. Compromise occurs during times of high humidity, prolonged rainfall, or increased exposure to biting insects. Horse owners should take steps to limit impact when these environmental conditions are present.

Prevention Practicing good horse hygiene habits, such as regular bathing and grooming, is one of the best ways to prevent rain rot from occurring. Likewise, reducing exposure to environmental factors known to increase incidence may help prevent this condition. If you know there will be heavy rainfall in your area, keeping the horse in a barn or under shelter can help reduce risk. Also, limiting access to muddy areas and trying to reduce the overall presence of mud may be helpful as the bacteria in mud caked on the horse could compromise the skin. If you are seeing high biting insect populations, implement management practices based on fly species. Some of these practices include setting up traps, increasing farm sanitation, introducing parasitoid wasps, and spraying the horse with a pyrethroid-based insecticide.

Treatment If the horse has a minor case of rain rot, it will usually heal with a little bit of extra attention and care. Giving the horse a bath with an antimicrobial soap can help remove the scabs and disrupt the bacteria in the affected area. Additionally, currying and brushing the horse’s coat can promote healing and prevent the spread or worsening of the area. As you work to remove scabs, the affected area may become tender to the touch, so be cautious with removal. Softening the scabs first makes removal easier and more comfortable for your horse. There are also topical antimicrobial products you may want to include in your treatment routine if you find it necessary.

Keep your horse dry and reduce exposure to known environmental factors during treatment. Try to keep horses with rain rot separated from others while treatment is occurring to prevent spread amongst horses. Similarly, disinfect and replace contaminated grooming tools and other equipment as needed to prevent spread. In severe cases, your horse may need antibiotic injections given by a veterinarian. Skin biopsies may need to be conducted to identify if the cause of the infection and ensure it is rain rot. Seeking the advice of a veterinarian is always recommended when determining cause and making treatment plans. b The Penn State Extension Equine Team is a group of equine educators providing research-based information on equine health, nutrition, and pasture/environmental management. Serving the state of Pennsylvania, the team offers educational material to horse owners through publications, workshops, online courses, webinars, and consults.

For more information about the team and current educational offerings, visit > equine. Be sure to follow the team on Facebook at > PennStateExtensionEquineTeam.


Neglected or malnourished horses are more susceptible to the infection, which causes lesions with patches of raised bumps or scabs. Removal of the scabs results in bald patches over the affected area. Treatment for the infection should begin immediately, and changes should be made to the horse’s environment and management to prevent recurrence.

If the horse’s skin remains wet or damp for extended periods of time, the skin can become compromised and the typically dormant bacteria that live on the skin can cause an inflammatory infection resulting in lesions. Horses with lighter coat colours and weaker immune systems are at greater risk of rain rot.

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By Brittani Kirkland, Extension Educator

Persistent and large amounts of rainfall can create challenges for equine care and have negative effects on your horse’s overall health. With rainfall comes an abundance of puddles and mud. Highly trafficked and concentrated areas in pastures can rapidly become slippery and muddy, which can be a burden to both horse and horse owner. Horse caretakers may find it cumbersome to walk in areas with excessive mud, and normal care and feeding routines may need to be adjusted. In addition, horses standing or walking in wet areas can experience an increase in hoof, soft tissue, 24




and skin related health conditions. Pooling water can also serve as an ideal breeding ground for insects that can be a nuisance to horses and horse owners alike. However, with proper management and care you can reduce the negative impacts of these rainy times on yourself, your horse, and your farm.

Common Health Issues Exacerbated by Rainfall Many horse owners become frustrated during wet weather when their horse enjoys a roll in the mud and extra grooming is required. A horse may roll to cover their body in mud to discourage biting insects, but more often, rolling is intended to assist the horse in scratching



itchy areas. However, coats that are caked in mud can be troublesome as mud may compromise the horse’s skin, promoting a common irritation known as rain rot. Rain rot is a skin infection that often occurs during times of extended rainfall. It causes hair loss and can become a threat to the horse’s health, limiting work and riding. Keeping the horse’s coat clean and dry will deter rain rot. (See How to Diagnose, Treat & Prevent Rain Rot in Horses, page 22.) When standing in muddy areas, horses can develop scratches, also called greasy heel. This condition is similar to rain rot on the body of the horse, but is concentrated to the lower leg area. If a horse develops this condition, treatment can be difficult as it is hard to eliminate contact with wet mud or grass. Removing mud on the lower legs and allowing the leg areas to dry daily will minimize issues. Severe cases of scratches can cause lameness, therefore immediate treatment is imperative. While rain rot and scratches affect the

Pastern dermatitis, also called scratches, mud fever, and greasy heel, is caused by bacteria and fungus invading the skin due to prolonged exposure to wet, muddy conditions. It is characterized by crusted scabs on the lower legs, where longer hair can trap moisture and dirt against the skin. Treat by clipping the hair and removing the dirt, then gently remove the crusts with warm water and antibacterial soap. Dry by blotting with a clean towel, and avoid rubbing which may further damage the skin. Apply antibacterial ointment or cream at least once a day. Severe cases may require treatment from a veterinarian. horse’s skin, heavy rain can also impact the horse’s hooves. Thrush, hoof cracks, white line disease, and hoof abscesses are a few hoof conditions that become prominent in times of wet weather. To reduce occurrence, ensure that your horse can stand in a clean, dry environment. Also, pick out the hooves regularly and stay on a consistent trimming schedule (every six weeks is optimal, or based on your farrier’s advice) to promote overall hoof health. Be aware of the signs of hoof problems, such as foul smell and lameness, and reach out to your veterinarian and farrier if an issue is suspected. Treatment can vary depending on the condition. Horses standing, walking, or running in mud are susceptible to tendon and ligament injuries. These injuries are often identified by localized swelling, heat, and/ or lameness. If you think your horse has a tendon or ligament injury, seek care from your veterinarian. Limit the amount of the horse’s activity in muddy areas to help prevent these injuries. SPRING 2021





Consider your building site in terms of the slope, drainage, and prevailing winds. Observe the site during heavy rain to see where water naturally pools. Site buildings on higher ground where possible to promote good drainage and air flow.

Changes to Insect Populations

Mud Mitigation

A high presence of insects often accompanies wet weather and can be a nuisance to horses and their owners. Rainfall and ponding create moist, muddy areas that become a breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes, and other types of insects. Mosquito larvae thrive in stagnant waters found in drinking troughs and puddles. Draining and managing surface water areas can eliminate ponding. Mosquitoes are vectors for many diseases that can affect both humans and animals. Protection and inoculation for mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile virus is recommended for equines that live in areas with high mosquito populations.

To help reduce impacts of rain on your horses, it is important to implement mud management strategies when caring for and designing your facilities. When designing your horse farm, site buildings on higher ground to help promote drainage. Similarly, consider using natural grassy areas and vegetation slopes as diversions and buffers. Existing facilities can also be altered by adding ditches, trenches, and gutters to help route water to areas of less traffic. It is recommended to work with professional engineers when fixing drainage problems, as it is easy to accidentally create a new problem somewhere else. One of the most important things to

consider when trying to reduce rainfall impacts is pasture condition. Turning horses out on pasture when the soil is wet causes soil compaction and damages plant root systems. The appearance of deep hoof prints, standing water, and bare ground is a sign that the soil is being damaged. One way you can reduce the amount of soil compaction and loss of grass is by designating a sacrifice paddock. A sacrifice paddock is a nongrazing area where horses are kept for an allotted time to help reduce impact on other pastures. Many horse owners use paddocks, run-outs, corrals, and dry lots to serve as sacrifice lots. Using sacrifice lots when the ground is extremely wet can help reduce the deterioration of grasses in grazing pastures.

Horse Care Overall, make sure you are maintaining good hygiene for your horses during rainy times. Frequent grooming and inspection are imperative in reducing rain impacts and preventing health issues from being exacerbated. If your horse’s coat is long, use hands-on contact with your horse’s body when evaluating for rain rot, scratches, or other skin conditions. Be consistent and thorough in your inspections and provide adequate and prompt treatment when needed. Reduce overall exposure to rain and mud as much as possible, by keeping horses in dry, clean environments. With preventative care and advance planning you’ll be better prepared to weather the rainy season and reduce the impact of wet weather on your horses and your facility. b

Use a sacrifice paddock during wet weather to keep horses from damaging the pasture. It should have sturdy fencing and be located on higher ground if possible.


The Penn State Extension Equine Team is a group of equine educators providing research-based information on equine health, nutrition, and pasture/environmental management. Serving the state of Pennsylvania, the team offers educational material to horse owners through publications, workshops, online courses, webinars, and consults.





For more information about the team and current educational offerings, visit > equine. Be sure to follow the team on Facebook at > PennStateExtensionEquineTeam.

Better Breathing in the


Dust Management in Horse Facilities By Purdue Extension


hy should horse owners be worried about the air quality in their equine facilities? Is there really anything that can be done to improve the quality once the barn is built? This article addresses these questions by providing management practices that can promote ideal air quality. The quality of air in barns and stables is important because high levels of dust, mold, and other airborne irritants often occur in horse environments. In particular, dust can lead to or aggravate respiratory health issues (see page 16, Breathtaking: A Close Look at Equine Respiratory Diseases). Both recurrent airway obstruction and inflammatory airway disease are examples of common diseases that can increase in severity upon exposure to dusty environments. 28




The clinical signs of respiratory disease include cough, nasal discharge, wheezing, flared nostrils and laboured breathing, reduced performance, and exercise intolerance. Often overlooked is the fact that many of our equine companions spend at least half their day confined to the stable. As horse owners come and go throughout the day, they don’t always think about how a little bit of dust in the corner or a hint of ammonia in the air can have a profound affect on the health of their horses and stable employees. Steps can be taken to reduce prolonged exposure to those irritants.

Factors of Air Quality In the barn, airborne dust is composed of particulates from various sources, including soil, mold, bacteria, insects and mite fragments, hair, manure, and plant material, to name a few. Dusts and molds can be recognized by the naked eye and by smell, but most airborne particulates, even aerosolized molds, are microscopic (less than 10 microns) and cannot be seen. Dust particles are classified based upon size and expected penetration into the human airways: • Total dust • Inhalable dust • Thoracic dust

• Respirable dust • Fine particles • Ultrafine particles

Total dust represents all dust particles and is mostly composed of dust that can be

Many horses spend at least half their day inside the barn, where poor air quality can significantly impact their health.

physically cleaned from barns. Thoracic dust is a slightly smaller particle size than total dust, able to reach only the upper portion of a human’s airways. Respirable dust can reach the deepest airways and is so small in diameter that often it is not trapped by natural clearance mechanisms, such as mucus. This particle is of particular interest because it is thought to be important in the common lower airway diseases in horses. Ultrafine dust has yet to be thoroughly researched, but is so small it is thought to be able to slip into the bloodstream and lead to problems elsewhere in the body. While these size classifications are based upon the ability of particles to reach each portion of the human airway, we apply these conventions to evaluation of equine environs.




Messy barns are dusty! Improve air quality by cleaning up the barn and removing clutter that collects dust. SPRING 2021




Ammonia levels from decomposed urine in bedding are higher closer to the floor, which means more exposure for foals and horses lying down.


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Combinations of total, inhalable, thoracic, and respirable dust are most often measured when studying horse facilities. Examples of contributors to increased dust levels are hay, bedding, and unnecessary clutter that “collects dust.” Mold spores can accumulate in hay, grain, and old tack and equipment left lying around the barn. Even the best quality hay contributes to mold and dust levels. Additionally, secretions containing bacteria and viral particles originating from a sick horse can contaminate tack and equipment in the barn, and often be transferred from horse to horse by shared common items and tools, such as feed buckets, halters, and brushes. In addition to dust, horses are frequently exposed to airborne ammonia. How can ammonia be identified? Ammonia monitors and tests are available to determine levels in a particular stall or area of the barn, but most horse owners recognize ammonia by smell. Horse farms have a classic odour — a mixture of manure, hay and grain — but ammonia has a distinct smell. When cleaning a horse stall, it is common to strip wet bedding down to the floor. Often there will be a noticeable difference in the smell, and the odour can sting nostrils and make the eyes watery.





Hay should be stored outside the barn in a separate weatherproof building and not above stalls where it is a continual source of dust.


Ammonia originating from decomposed urine in bedding can be an irritant to the respiratory tract, and levels of ammonia typically increase closer to the floor of the stable. Horses that are lying down, and ponies and foals whose breathing zone is closer to the ground, can have significantly higher exposures to ammonia.

Mechanics of Altering Stable Air There are several factors to consider when thinking about the overall topic of stable air quality. Both ventilation and air exchange rate in a stable greatly affect the ability of airborne particulates to settle or





be removed from the barn. Ventilation is the process of replacing stale air with fresh air. Most horse barns have inadequate ventilation, which can increase the risk of respiratory disease in animals and humans. The three types of ventilation are: infiltration, mechanical, and natural. The air exchange rate — how fast outside air can replace indoor air — also is important. As fresh air from the outside enters a barn, particle concentration in the air will decrease, providing a healthier breathing environment. Infiltration is unintended ventilation. It

occurs in a barn when air slips in through cracks in walls and floors or through gaps around windows and doors. Although not the ideal form of ventilation, many stables have significant infiltration. Mechanical ventilation utilizes equipment such as fans, vents in the walls, and ducts. For natural ventilation consider the stack/chimney effect, aspiration, and perflation. Aspiration can be thought of as the effect of the wind blowing across the roof of the barn, while perflation is the effect of air blowing from one side of the stable to the other. The stack/chimney effect depends on

temperature and moisture differences between the inside and outside, as well as the height of the stable. This is visually demonstrated by the steam seen as heat rises from a horse’s back while in the barn. In warmer temperatures, the hot air in the barn escapes through openings in the ceiling or at higher levels of the barn (vents, windows, cupolas, etc.), reducing the pressure at the lower level of the barn. The reduction in pressure near the ground allows cooler air to be drawn in through open doors, windows, and vents. This phenomenon can occur in reverse to a lesser degree during cooler months, when the difference in temperature between the inside and outside of the barn isn’t as great. Under these conditions, the stack effect is not as strong.



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How Can Air Quality be Improved? Soffit and ridge vents also can be used to improve ventilation. Soffit vents are installed under the eave of the roof and work to pull cool air in, allowing warm air to escape through openings in the roof. Ridge vents run along the entire length of the peak (ridge) of the roof. These work primarily to allow warm air to escape from the facility. Much research has been conducted to determine what influences particulate matter in the air. This research allows stable owners to improve the quality of air by making very basic changes to their management practices. CLUTTER — The first thing to think about is minimizing the clutter around the barn. If half the bridles haven’t been used recently, it isn’t necessary to scatter them over the tack trunk. Removing dustcollecting objects from the barn will remove only the visible dust; the particles that tend to be the most harmful are those that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Every little bit of dust reduction helps, so cleaning out the barn is a good start. BEDDING — The bedding used in stalls can have a significant effect on the respirable dust concentration in the barn. Many barn owners choose to bed their horses on straw, even though research shows that it is one of the dustiest materials that can be used. Wood shavings provide a good alternative, and there are many new items on the market — such as bedding in pellet form and shredded paper and cardboard — that generate very little dust. FEED — What a horse is fed also has an effect on the amount of dust in a barn. Several different studies have shown hay to be dustier than other available forages. SPRING 2021





Cleaning stalls and sweeping the aisles should not be done while horses are in the barn. Before bringing horses in, wait up to an hour for the dust to settle once chores are done.

Furthermore, horses tend to bury their noses deep in hay while eating, especially in round bales, thereby exposing themselves to even higher dust levels. Alternatives to hay include alfalfa cubes or pellets, and haylage. Haylage is made from grass cut at an earlier time than hay. After it has been dried to an appropriate level, the haylage is wrapped in plastic, retaining the original nutrients. One study showed that changing a horse’s diet and bedding from hay and straw to haylage and shavings can reduce dust levels by more than 97 percent (Couëtil 2008, p. 281). A veterinarian or equine nutritionist can provide information about alternative forages available in your area. How and where horses are fed hay also can have an affect on the dust levels. Feeding hay in hay nets or racks seems to increase the dust particulate in the breathing zone when compared to spreading hay out on the stall floor. Feeding hay from hay nets or racks also places the horse’s head at an unnatural level for grazing, and can result in the horse’s nose and eyes being exposed to more dust and hay particulate. While hay is one of the dustiest forages available for horses — even good quality hay — measures can be taken to limit dust levels if that is the only option available. Upon delivery, thoroughly check a number of randomly selected bales for excessive levels of visible dust and any mold that may have developed during storage. Hay should be stored as far away from stalls as possible. Although it may be convenient to store hay directly above the stalls, this practice results in a constant source of new and potentially harmful dust. If a storage trailer or separate weatherproof building is available, it is beneficial to store the majority of hay outside the barn. Finally, soaking the hay for a short period of time prior to feeding can reduce dust. Studies have shown that soaking hay for 15 minutes versus half a day doesn’t make a major difference on dust levels. Merely

Most horse barns suffer from inadequate ventilation. Good barn ventilation and air exchange will replace stale air with fresh air and decrease airborne particle concentration more quickly.








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Soffit vents under the eaves pull air inside the structure where it circulates and is then exhausted through the ridge vent and gable vent.

immersing the hay before feeding it to a horse can provide some benefit. Care should be taken to avoid soaking the hay for too long, which can leach beneficial nutrients from the hay. Another management consideration is whether to keep barn doors open or closed. Depending on the circumstances, open barn doors can help reduce levels of dust. The stack effect of natural ventilation relies on fresher, cooler air being moved into the barn near the ground level, as warm air is expired through the ceiling or various vents. Opening the doors provides a way for outside air to circulate through the barn, helping remove stale air through other ventilation mechanisms such as fans and vents. Closing the doors reduces the amount of fresh air able to enter the barn and


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limits it from moving through cracks in the walls or smaller windows. While the tendency might be to wait to open all the doors until a spring day, consider opening them even when the temperatures are colder outside. Doing so can help reduce dust and ammonia levels and make the stable a more pleasant environment for both horses and humans.

Dust Generating Tasks

Sweeping aisles and tossing hay into stalls allows horse owners to visualize the dust being generated, but there are a few other tasks which generate dust that owners often don’t think about. Cleaning stalls has been shown to magnify dust by nearly 16 times normal levels. It is a good idea to turn horses out or exercise them

outside while stalls are being cleaned and aisles swept. It takes 30 minutes to one hour for dust to settle once cleaning tasks are completed, so don’t move a horse back inside immediately after a stall is cleaned.

Considerations for Construction or Renovation If building or renovating a barn, make


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Soaking hay for a short period of time will significantly reduce the dust it contains. In sub-zero weather, add salt to the water to lower its freezing point. For example, a 1:9 salt/water solution will freeze at -6 degrees C.


sure the structure has the proper number of vents for optimum air exchange rates, as well as an adequate number of windows and doors. Even during colder temperatures, windows should remain open as much as possible. Vents in the roof — or some form of opening to allow stale air to escape — are essential. In addition, strategically placed fans, in conjunction with open doors, can help recirculate the stable air and prevent dust from settling inside the stable. However, it is important to consider the placement of fans so that settled dust is not blown back into the air. The quality of air in stables is of utmost importance to the horses living there and the people working in the barn. Ideally, horses should spend as much time turned out as possible, but many get only a few hours outside each day. Structural and mechanical changes to the building can improve poor ventilation, and better stable management practices can make a positive difference in air quality. b


Printed with the kind permission of Katherine Smith, Kathleen Ivester, and Laurent Couëtil, Purdue University Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, SVM; Mark Russell, Purdue University Department of Animal Sciences.

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of Exposure to Crystalline Silica Dust in Riding Arenas

Equestrian riding instructors, coaches, and trainers are at an increased risk for several respiratory conditions if they work primarily in a riding arena or round pen with sand footing. Nearly every riding arena contains sand of some type, either as part of the subsurface, the base, or the footing itself. Almost all sand contains crystalline silica. As horses work, they disturb the silica, which produces a fine, airborne silica dust. Workers, riders, and horses inhale the dust. What health hazards are posed by crystalline silica dust exposure? Crystalline silica dust exposure has been linked to lung cancer. In one case, a trainer was exposed to

crystalline silica dust while working seven to twelve horses a day in a sand longing arena for more than two decades. The trainer died of lung cancer linked to that exposure. Prolonged exposure can also lead to silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. The fine particles deposited in the lungs cause thickening and scarring of the lung tissue. There is no cure for this entirely preventable disease. All kinds of respirable dust may contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in both humans and horses.

reasonably possible to eliminate worker exposure, including: • Eliminating silica or substituting safer footing materials; • Using medium-coarse, washed sand in footing materials rather than fine sand — medium-coarse washed sand is less likely to produce excessive dust; • Using watering systems — regular watering helps reduce airborne dust levels and is both inexpensive and environmentally safe; and, • Using dust-control products — examples include oils, waxes, salts, polymers, and alkanes.

How to prevent exposure By law in British Columbia, employers must do everything

Coarser sand and alternative footing materials will eventually break down and produce dust, and should be completely replaced periodically to help prevent exposure. Create an exposure control plan Crystalline silica is a human carcinogen; therefore, it requires an exposure control plan and precautions should be taken. WorkSafeBC mandates that if workers are exposed to a carcinogen, section 5.57 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation requires employers to implement an exposure control plan to maintain workers’ exposure as low as reasonably achievable below the exposure limit. The eight-hour exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica is 0.025 mg per cubic metre. As a general rule, if dust is visible in the air, workers are overexposed. For more information, visit >






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BRAIN POWER How horses and humans learn, adapt, and grow. By Alexa Linton, Equine Sports Therapist Adaptability is an essential quality we think of in many contexts, and one synonymous with flexibility, learning, and growth. Yet, do we always overlay this quality on our horses and our training, or even more importantly, on the very thing that allows us to be adaptable in the first place — our nervous system? Have you ever met a horse or human who had a hard time learning or retaining a new skill, exhibited “bad” behaviour when under pressure, was challenged by changes such as moving, new environments, or with their schedule, companions, or training routine? I know I have, and I have also been that human, and had that horse. Often, we get labelled as overly sensitive, flighty, or even slow or challenged learners, but the reality is that each horse and human has a unique nervous system that functions, thrives, and learns in different ways and under different conditions. When I was a teen, I played soccer in a high-pressure and achievement-oriented 40




league. I look back now and cringe, as I remember being skilled and successful in practice only to absolutely bomb in games. My coach, team, family, and myself had no clue how to deal with what was happening. I understand now, 20 years later, that my nervous system thrives in situations that are fun, varied, positive, and low pressure, like in practice. As soon as the game arrived and the external pressure (crowd, teammates, coach, expectations) and internal pressure (inner criticism, judgement) were on, I (my nervous system) collapsed into a puddle of goo. More accurately, I entered a space of parasympathetic collapse and sympathetic hyperactivation, leading to a system shutdown where optimal performance and retention of learned skills were nearly impossible. Hindsight has taught me a lot about this experience and how my unique system adapts (or doesn’t) and has made me very curious about how humans and horses

learn, adapt, and grow. I have also come to understand learning in terms of three zones. Imagine a bullseye — in the middle, the comfort zone; outside of this, the adaptability zone; and beyond that, the freak-out zone, where the nervous system is pushed well beyond its capacity, like Alexa in high-pressure soccer games. For a long time, training my horses did not equate to thinking about their learning styles, their personal freak-out zones (which are individual for each horse), or unique nervous systems. Instead, I applied what I had been taught by my coach/trainer, and if it really didn’t work (essentially if my horse became noticeably unhappy and resistant), I would try something different, but I would still not think specifically about learning styles. Because I was employing mainly negative reinforcement training, I could usually bully my way into being fairly effective and would see something that looked a whole lot


like learning in my now 21-year-old mare, Diva. Looking back, I realize much of this “learning” was done by pushing her into the freak-out zone — through her fears, through her concerns — to desensitize her and “make” her okay with things. Now in hindsight, as I shift my focus and understanding of learning, I see that in many situations Diva did what she was told, often out of fear, but was not learning and adapting in a significant way. For example, with a basic skill like mounting, I can see that she was not fully comfortable with the process and did not fully understand what was being asked or how she needed to show up. This would present as her wanting to walk off immediately after I mounted, a behaviour that I would either laugh off or address after the fact. Instead, I should have broken the skill down and been clear about what I wanted, assessing what she was comfortable and ready for, and understanding how to prepare her system well for what was being asked. SPRING 2021





traditional way of training horses that can create a fear of trying something new, for fear of judgement or criticism. What supports would you need to break free of old ways in favour of what works best for you and your horse?






k-out Zone a e Fr ability Z pt

e on

I see now that Diva learns best just like me (funny that!), in a low pressure, high praise, varied, and engaging/fun environment, where she can confidently and fully learn simple skills that build to more complex skills. She also needs her movement, forage, and friends, and her body comfort needs (aligned spine and balanced cranium) satisfied first to be able to move from her comfort zone to her adaptability zone. She learns best with short 20 to 40-minute focused training sessions that vary from online to liberty to in-the-saddle. It took me only 17 years to figure this out! Most recently we have begun using positive reinforcement training as a part of our training time, and I have found this very effective for breaking down each skill into manageable and engaging parts to allow the whole to make more sense. This builds her retention and her ability to adapt in a healthy way to new scenarios that require similar skill sets. When I train through negative reinforcement (which I still use at times, with far more intention and understanding), I am acutely aware of whether my horses are actually learning a skill and adapting, or are instead learning to avoid punishment, pressure, or pain. When we look at supporting optimal learning, one of the biggest components that needs to adapt is us. Without the ability to learn and apply new skills, we are like a hamster caught on the wheel, destined to keep doing the same thing over and over again with similar results. Yet, the science of training and understanding horses is


Each horse and rider thrives and learns in different ways and under different conditions.

Comfort Zone

Imagine a bullseye — in the middle, the comfort zone; outside of this, the adaptability zone; and beyond that, the freak-out zone, where the nervous system is pushed well beyond its capacity, like Alexa in high-pressure soccer games.

moving forward in leaps and bounds, urging us to diversify our skills and awareness to support our horses. Are you willing to shift the way you’ve always done things in support of a happier horse, a healthier nervous system, and a more connected relationship? If not, what is stopping you? Where is your learning and adaptability edge (your freak-out zone)? What aspects of your environment are supporting you to adapt, or not? Sometimes even our barn environments can be heavily steeped in a

I have included a list of my biggest supports and mentors on this ever-evolving learning adventure (episodes with all these excellent people are on the Whole Horse Podcast at > Enjoy! Heather Nelson Heather is an avid learner and infinitely curious, which I love! She combines liberty training, classical training, positive reinforcement and more, and it works great! She’s on Vancouver Island and has a great YouTube channel. > Connection Training with Hannah Weston Based in England, Hannah has a book and a great YouTube channel with many basic skills broken down using positive reinforcement training. A great resource. > Elsa Sinclair and Freedom Based Training Elsa calls her training the slowest training method in the world, and who doesn’t need more slow right about now? Her documentary Taming Wild is incredible and well worth a watch. > Sarah Schlote of EQUUSOMA If you want to know about the nervous system, horses, and learning as well as the impact of trauma, Sarah is an awesome resource and has some great free sources on her website. > Josh Nichol of A Horseman’s Pursuit Josh has a way of seeing horses and the world that is both inspiring and practical. He’s producing great content, is an excellent teacher, and does clinics every year all over Western Canada. > Nahshon Cook His podcast with Warwick Schiller sent a wave through the horse world, and I was honoured that he would share his wisdom with my listeners as well. He blends classical training with a depth of understanding of the horse partnership that is truly incredible. > b NahshonCookHorsemanship > Alexa Linton is a regular contributor to this magazine. Read her bio on page 83.


HEALTH LINES Veterinary Medical Centre

Western College of Veterinary Medicine SPRING 2021



Cardiac cases linked to caterpillars PRIMED UP FOR A DOWN HORSE HORMONE BASELINE Western College of Veterinary Medicine

T o w n s e n d E q u i n e H e a lth R e s e a r c h F u n d


INSIDE 1 Swirski shines as horse health advocate Mikayla Swirski of Langley, B.C., was among 10 North American veterinary students who received scholarships at the annual American Association of Equine Practitioners’ convention.

2 The point of no infection Septic arthritis is challenging to treat, but a team of University of Saskatchewan researchers hope their findings will eventually lead to a better way of verifying when joint infection is gone.

4 Primed up for a down horse When a down horse was brought to the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre last fall, the large animal clinical team was ready to help.

6 Helping horses breathe easier A new inhalation therapy for treating severe asthma in horses is now available in Canada.

7 Cardiac cases linked to caterpillars Four cases of an uncommon cardiac disease were linked to an infestation of tent caterpillars in Saskatchewan.

8 Lucky Treasure A congenital defect put a stain on a young filly’s future until her luck changed for the better, bringing her a new home and a new lease on life.

10 Hormone baseline for horses in the West A WCVM project is helping Prairie Diagnostic Services gather vital reference values so Saskatchewan’s veterinary laboratory can begin offering equine endocrine diagnostic testing.

Pete, a miniature donkey, is ready for spring.

12 Galloping Gazette

Christina Weese

A round up of the WCVM’s latest horse health news.

Veterinary Medical

Horse Health Lines is the news publication for the Western College Centre of Veterinary Medicine’s Townsend Equine Health Research Fund (TEHRF). Visit for more information. Send comments and article reprint requests to: Myrna MacDonald, Editor, Horse Health Lines WCVM, University of Saskatchewan 52 Campus Drive, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5B4 Horse Health Lines design and layout: Priddy Design

ON THE COVER Treasure, a Gypsy Vanner filly owned by Cindy Thomas of Evansburg, Alta. Read more about Treasure’s story on page 8. Christina Weese

Christina Weese

Swirski shines as horse health advocate

Mikayla Swirski and Hank, her five-year-old mustang gelding. Mikayla Swirski

By Myrna MacDonald

Mikayla Swirski, a senior veterinary student at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), was among 10 North American veterinary students rewarded for their dedication to equine health during the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ (AAEP) virtual convention in December 2020. Swirski was one of five Oakwood Foundation scholarship recipients, while another five students received Merck Animal Health Scholarships at the event. “It was an honour to be selected for the scholarship. It showed me that my dedication and hard work inside and outside of school was recognized, and it has pushed me to continue to educate myself in equine health,” says Swirski, whose fourth-year schedule includes clinical rotations in equine field service, lameness and theriogenology as well as large animal medical imaging, surgery and medicine. Administered by The Foundation for the Horse, both scholarship programs provide US$5,000 awards to promising veterinary students in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean who have shown leadership in their veterinary schools and commitment to careers in equine medicine. The Oakwood scholarships are supported by American philanthropists Renée and John Grisham. Swirski’s connection to equine health began early on in life: “I owned a horse when I was younger that, unfortunately, was very accident prone, so I frequently visited my veterinarian. This continued contact with my veterinarian sparked an interest in equine medicine.” Before moving to Saskatoon, she volunteered at New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society in her home community of Langley, B.C., training adoptable horses on the ground and under saddle. For the past five years, Swirski’s favourite training project has been Hank, her nineyear-old mustang gelding.

During her time at the WCVM, she has been an active member of the college’s Equine Club — a student chapter of the AAEP. The club has been the ideal channel for Swirski, who is dedicated to educating herself as well as the equine community. “As a future veterinarian, I feel it’s important to gather as much equine knowledge as possible, but it’s also our job to share that knowledge with the community,” she says. “In the past few years, I have held various positions in the WCVM Equine Club, and my favourite event was Equine Education Day — an event held every year that brings in different age groups who all want to learn more about equine health.”

Swirski is a familiar face in the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre where she worked as an equine research student with professor and theriogenologist Dr. Claire Card during the summer of 2018 and as part of the Equine Field Service’s team for two summers in 2019 and 2020. Once she completes her veterinary degree in April 2021, Swirski plans to begin a one-year equine field service internship at the WCVM so she’s best prepared to practise as an equine practitioner. “My primary interest is lameness and rehabilitation, but I hope to offer a well-rounded wellness program that can address multiple areas in equine health.”

Western College of Veterinary Medicine


The point of no infection By Myrna MacDonald

A team of University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) and the College of Medicine are striving to find a reliable method for verifying when a horse with septic arthritis no longer has a joint infection — and no longer needs treatment. Who is on the team?

What’s being done?

WCVM researchers Dr. Joe Bracamonte and Dr. Elemir Simko (co-principal investigators), Dr. George Katselis (USask College of Medicine) and Dr. Roman Koziy, PhD graduate student, WCVM.

A team of USask scientists are working to find reliable diagnostic markers that veterinarians can use to accurately determine when bacteria in the infected joint is gone. Their ultimate goal is to expand their research to the clinical setting and develop a diagnostic method that identifies the point of eradication of joint infection in horses.

What is septic arthritis? Septic arthritis occurs when bacteria or another infectious agent causes inflammation in a horse’s limb joint. Besides being a very painful condition, septic arthritis is very challenging to diagnose and treat. Since there’s no reliable standard for determining when the joint infection is resolved, veterinarians often select aggressive treatments. These options include prolonged use of antibiotic drugs and arthroscopic lavage (using an arthroscope to clean out the joint space). While these treatments can be successful, they can also cause further health issues for patients and aid in the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacterial strains among horse herds.

What’s needed? Veterinarians need a sensitive, reliable method that they can use to verify when the infection is resolved in a horse’s infected joint. 2


Project 1 The USask team used standard diagnostic techniques to determine the point when infection was eradicated in horses with septic arthritis in an experimental model. These diagnostic techniques included bacterial culture, cytological evaluation of synovial fluid and bacterial DNA amplification using polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Based on the study’s findings, the infection was eradicated by the fourth day following planned infection in the experimental model. These results suggest that many clinical cases of septic arthritis are treated with antibiotic drugs longer than necessary and with potential side effects. Commonly used cytological parameters are not reliable markers for eradication of

infection. In fact, some of these parameters may be elevated because of treatment or concurrent disease. Serum amyloid A (SAA) is an acute phase protein useful for diagnosing systemic and joint inflammation. However, the research team confirmed that SAA isn’t a reliable marker for determining eradication of infection in the joint.

Project 2 In this experiment, the USask team analyzed the protein composition of plasma and synovial fluid using mass spectrometry, an analytical tool that accurately measures the mass and electrical charge of different molecules within a sample. Through this analysis, the team identified five proteins that correlate with the eradication of joint infection — meaning that these proteins may potentially serve as reliable biomarkers.

Project 3 In a previous study, the USask researchers determined that systemic serum amyloid A (SAA) isn’t a reliable marker of eradication of infection in the joint. However, several studies showed that SAA in the joint has a slightly different electrical charge compared to systemic SAA in blood. This finding suggests the existence of joint-specific SAA isoforms — a similar protein but with genetic differences. In this study, the USask team wanted to characterize joint-specific SAA expressed during infection and try determining if joint-specific SAA could be used as biomarker for eradication of infection. In all seven experimental horses, the researchers found that joint-specific SAA contains a different amino acid sequence compared to systemic SAA in blood plasma. Researchers may be able to target this specific variant of SAA in synovial fluid and use it as a biomarker for diagnosing septic arthritis, monitoring treatment and confirming eradication of infection.







Project 4 The research team’s next focus is on analyzing the messenger RNA (mRNA) in synovial fluid with transcriptomics, which uses high-throughput methods to analyze the expression of multiple transcripts in different physiological and disease conditions. Human medicine researchers have successfully used this approach to diagnose systemic infections (sepsis) in human patients. Specifically, they developed a SeptiCyte test (a panel of four mRNA biomarkers) that accurately differentiate between sepsis and non-infectious inflammatory syndrome in people. Using a similar approach, the USask team conducted a pilot study using available samples. Next, the researchers are evaluating preliminary data from the pilot study and then expanding it to a full-scale transcriptomic study so they can identify mRNA markers for eradication of infection — similar to how human physicians use the SeptiCyte test for human patients. The Mark and Pat DuMont Equine Orthopedics Research Fund and the Townsend Equine Health Research Fund have provided financial support for this series of research projects.

Previous page: PhD student Dr. Roman Koziy, a key member of the USask research team. Photo 1: A sample is taken from the knee joint of a horse with experimentally-induced septic arthritis. Photos 2 and 3 show the two different types of synovial samples that were collected from the study’s horses: exudative (photo 2) and serosanguineous (photo 3). Photo 4: Bacteriological culture of synovial fluid samples using three culture medias. Photo 5: Processed samples for mass spectrometry analysis. Photo 6: This research study uses liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Supplied photos

Couple ‘tops up’ fund In 2020, Mark and Pat DuMont contributed another $100,000 to the equine research fund that they created at the WCVM in 2013. The Mark and Pat DuMont Equine Orthopedics Research Fund supports WCVM-based research targeting musculoskeletal health — a passion for the couple who own sport horses on their farm near Langley, B.C. In the past eight years, the B.C. couple has committed $700,000 to the WCVM research fund. Besides this latest gift, the DuMonts gave an initial gift of $300,000 in 2013 and then topped up the fund with another $300,000 gift in 2016.

Their latest donation is supporting the next phase in a large-scale, multi-year septic arthritis research project led by equine surgical specialist Dr. Joe Bracamonte and veterinary pathologist Dr. Elemir Simko of the WCVM. The team’s ultimate goal is to develop a diagnostic tool that veterinarians can use in their practices to enhance their treatment of equine patients diagnosed with septic arthritis. So far, the WCVM research team has published two articles in the Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research in 2019 and 2020 with plans for further publication.

Western College of Veterinary Medicine


Primed up for a down horse By Katie Brickman-Young

When the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC) received a call about a down horse last fall, the hospital’s large animal clinical team jumped into action. Hickory, a 12-year-old quarter horse mare, had competed in a rodeo in Regina, Sask., on a warm September day. Unfortunately, after Hickory and her rider completed running a pole pattern, the horse suddenly went down. At the event, veterinarians treated the mare with intravenous (IV) fluids and medication, then referred her to the VMC in Saskatoon for further treatment. Hickory had shown acute signs of tying-up syndrome — trembling, sweating and a stiff gait. Her symptoms progressed rapidly after competing, and after going down, she was unable to get up.



“We were concerned because she had been down for many hours,” says Dr. Claudia Cruz Villagran, a former faculty member at the WCVM and a specialist in large animal internal medicine. “We calculated that she must have spent 12 hours [lying] down, which is not good for a large animal.” Tying-up or rhabdomyolysis describes multiple disorders that affect the body’s muscle system, causing muscle-cell destruction and decreased performance. “This is similar to when a person runs a marathon and it’s hard to move the next day,” explains Cruz Villagran. The large animal clinical team used the time that Hickory was being transported from Regina to the VMC to prepare a game plan and assign duties to each member. Cruz Villagran and other members of the hospital’s large animal team had previously

dealt with cases of tying-up. That background helped everyone be ready to help Hickory as soon as her owner arrived at the hospital. “If you don’t have the knowledge or experience, this case could have gone badly,” says Cruz Villagran. “Each case is different and you have to evaluate the situation quickly, see which position the horse is in, and go from there.” The team prepared the hospital’s neurological stall, which has a hoist and padded walls to help keep unsteady or down animals safe. They also set up IV fluids, catheters, shavings for bedding, a mat and other essential items so they didn’t lose any time. “Once we opened the trailer and saw the horse, we knew our plan was going to work,” says Cruz Villagran. As a first step, the team worked quickly to insert an IV catheter and to anesthetize

The low-down on down horses Why is a down horse cause for alarm? When a horse is down for a lengthy period of time, blood flow to muscles and organs slows down because of the immense weight of the horse’s body. The longer a horse is down, the animal’s muscles become more compressed because of the lack of blood flow. This can lead to inflammation in the fascia (envelope covering the muscles), which can cause severe cellular damage in the muscles as well as a disturbances of normal electrolytes and muscle enzymes.

What should you do?

• Stay calm. Working with a down horse can

• •

Why does a horse go down?

• Orthopedic problems such as laminitis, a fractured limb or a joint dislocation

• Nerve paralysis, caused by a puncture • • Hickory was brought in to the WCVM’s neurological stall, which is equipped with padded walls and a sling hoist for patients’ safety.

• • • •

wound or some type of trauma Severe colic can cause a horse to collapse due to dehydration, internal bleeding or pain Tying-up (rhabdomyolysis) due to muscle inflammation Heat exhaustion or dehydration Neurologic conditions such as equine herpesvirus, rabies or West Nile virus Cardiac issues such as atrial fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia fibrillation A difficult foaling

be very stressful, plus the animal is already agitated and distressed because it can’t get up or out of the situation. Be aware of your surroundings and your safety. Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation. Before phoning your veterinarian, evaluate the horse’s surroundings so you can provide as much information as possible. Details can help the veterinary team gather up tools such as ropes, a sling and specific medications. The more history you can provide, the better equipped your veterinarian will be to deal with your horse. If your horse is trapped (such as in a mud hole, river or trench), your veterinarian may decide to call the local fire department or an animal rescue team (if available). If your horse is down because of suspected laminitis or colic, your veterinarian will decide whether your horse needs fluid therapy or a blood transfusion before moving the animal off the property. If your veterinarian is in agreement, you may want to try and offer water to the down horse. It may help to determine the horse’s mental attitude.

Supplied photo

Hickory so they could safely move her out of the trailer and into the hospital stall. Twenty minutes later, the team used IV fluids and medication to resuscitate the mare. “While she was still waking up for the anesthesia, she was a very smart horse because she didn’t try and fight us or kick us,” says Cruz Villagran. Throughout the night, Hickory continued to receive vital IV fluids and was constantly monitored. Aside from the horse being down for many hours, a significant concern for Cruz Villagran was the health of Hickory’s kidneys. Tying-up can cause extensive muscle damage, which leads to the release of a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream. Myoglobin, which is darkly pigmented, and other muscle proteins must be filtered through the kidneys. If a horse that’s passing dark, red-brown urine isn’t kept

hydrated, their kidneys can be damaged. “It was really bad — the kidney enzymes were the colour of Coca-Cola,” says Cruz Villagran, describing Hickory’s test results. Hickory’s prognosis wasn’t good after the first night. But by the third day of treatment, Hickory suddenly got up after a couple of attempts in the stall and was able to stay standing with the help of a rehabilitative sling. After three more days of treatment, the mare was discharged. “Recovery is different in each case. It depends on the horse, their condition and the amount of damage,” says Cruz Villagran. “In Hickory’s case, she was fantastic to work with. She didn’t try to thrash around; she stayed calm and took her time to let us help her.” Cruz Villagran worked with Hickory to slowly build up her strength, taking her for short walks in the hospital’s indoor

breezeway and then graduating to outdoor walks and grazing. “I sent her [owner] home with a detailed plan for going back into exercise and using a very conservative plan,” says Cruz Villagran. She followed up with Hickory’s owner about a month after the emergency and was happy to hear that Hickory was doing well. The key takeaway for Cruz Villagran, in this case, was being prepared for the situation. “The team was great, and we had our Plan A and Plan B, and everyone was on the same page,” she says. “Having those possible scenarios already discussed was a great starting point before the horse even arrived at the VMC.”

Western College of Veterinary Medicine


New therapy helps horses breathe better By Myrna MacDonald Canadians have access to the first licensed and approved inhalation therapy specifically developed to help horses with severe equine asthma without causing unwanted side effects. Developed by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health (BI), the Aservo® EquiHaler® is an inhalation therapy available through veterinarians. It’s used to treat severe equine asthma, formerly known as recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) or heaves. Like humans, environmental triggers such as inhalable organic and inorganic dust, mould, bacteria and pollen cause asthma in horses. Feeding dry hay — especially low-quality feed — is the most common source of these particles. Horses with severe asthma suffer from chronic cough, nasal discharge, excessive effort when breathing, poor recovery after exercise or exercise intolerance, and weight loss. The product uses ciclesonide, a corticosteroid, with a Soft Mist Inhaler — a unique inhalant delivery system that BI initially developed for use in human respiratory therapies. “It ticks all of the boxes: it’s the only licensed, inhaled product available for equine asthma on the market, and it’s very efficacious with a simple 10-day protocol,” says Dr. Doug Myers, BI’s western Canadian technical services veterinarian. Once prescribed, an owner inserts the device into the horse’s left nostril and delivers a series of “puffs” — eight puffs twice a day for five days, followed by 12 puffs once a day for another five days. Defined as a “prodrug,” ciclesonide is a biologically inactive compound. Once inhaled, it metabolizes and transforms into a much more potent corticosteroid that helps treat inflammation directly in the lungs. “The Soft Mist Inhaler technology delivers the drug through the horse’s nostril so it avoids the issue of [the drug] being accidentally swallowed. It’s easy to inhale TM




The inhalant device is inserted into the horse’s left nostril and delivers a series of “puffs.” Supplied photo

as the mist goes in at a very low velocity, naturally following the inhaled air, and the particle size is very small — less than five microns — so the drug gets directly into the horse’s lungs,” says Myers. He adds that after some initial training, most horses in clinical trials accepted the inhaler without issues. The device is meant for a 10-day treatment period, and since it’s licensed as a pharmaceutical product, it can’t be reused. The new therapy became the first product to receive dual approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Canada’s Veterinary Drug Directorate in April 2020. While the therapy was available in Europe and the U.S. last year, it was just launched in Canada in January 2021. One Canadian veterinarian who has been waiting to use the product is Dr. Julia Montgomery, a large animal internal medicine specialist and researcher at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). She reviewed a prototype in 2019 when she and other equine asthma specialists attended a BI advisory meeting in Québec. Montgomery is excited about the new therapy for two reasons. First, it doesn’t cause systemic cortisol suppression, which can lead to immunosuppression or even

laminitis — a side effect of some corticosteroids. This is good news for horses that already have a higher risk of developing laminitis because of pre-existing conditions. “The second reason is that they’ve (BI) done really good field trials with a large number of horses, both in Europe and North America,” says Montgomery. “They’ve done a good job on efficacy and safety.” Over 600 horses participated in clinical trials that included healthy horses and horses with severe asthma. The trials clearly demonstrated that the therapy is effective in reducing clinical signs of the disease. While the inhalant therapy is effective, Myers and Montgomery stress that environmental management — decreasing dust and allergens — is the first step in treating equine asthma. “Asthma is a chronic disease, so one of the really important messages to get across to horse owners is that none of this will work if you don’t also change the horse’s environment,” says Montgomery. “Essentially these steroids are to treat flare-ups of asthma — it’s to get them past the acute phase of the disease, and some may need another treatment.” Visit for more information.

Cardiac cases linked to caterpillars By Myrna MacDonald

A report recently published in Canadian Veterinary Journal tells the story of how a team of veterinarians at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) linked cases of an uncommon cardiac disease in horses with a caterpillar infestation in Saskatchewan. Between June and September 2017, clinicians at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre examined four horses of varying ages and from different locations in the province. Overall, the horses showed similar clinical signs including a lack of energy, rapid heart rate, muffled heart sounds, jugular vein distension, swelling of the lower abdomen and respiratory distress. All of the animals were eventually diagnosed with congestive heart failure due to septic fibrinous pericarditis. Pericarditis is inflammation of the pericardium — the membrane that surrounds the heart. When fluid builds up in this sac, pressure on the heart reduces its ability to pump blood. As the article’s authors state, this is the first report of a suspected association between an outbreak of forest tent caterpillars and equine fibrinous pericarditis in Western Canada. According to the horses’ owners, their pastures had been infested by forest tent caterpillars during the previous two years. Saskatchewan experienced larger outbreaks of the insects than usual in 2016 and 2017. Veterinarians in United States and Australia have previously reported a link

between tent caterpillars and equine disease. In 2001 and 2002, horses ingesting eastern tent caterpillars was associated with mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS) in Kentucky, Ohio and several other American states. While fibrinous pericarditis was associated with some of the U.S. cases, MRLS is mainly associated with a devastating number of abortions in pregnant mares at some large thoroughbred breeding farms. The Saskatchewan cases shared similar clinical signs with MRLS horses diagnosed with pericarditis. The cases were also considered septic (infected with microorganisms) based on bacterial culture results that found Actinobacillus species as well as Escherichia coli and Enterococcus faecalis. In previous cases where there was an increased build-up of septic fluid, 40 per cent of the pericarditis cases associated with caterpillar ingestion showed infection with the same bacteria. Three of the horses were humanely euthanized after diagnosis, but one owner opted to treat the patient — an 18-year-old Appaloosa mare. To reduce pressure on the mare’s heart, the clinical team inserted a needle into the pericardium to withdraw fluid — a procedure called pericardiocentesis. In total, clinicians drained an astonishing 16 litres of fluid during the procedure. In addition to intravenous fluids and an anti-inflammatory drug, the mare received

antibiotics (penicillin and gentamicin) to treat Actinobacillus bacteria isolated from fluid collected in the pericardiocentesis. The horse was eventually discharged, but 11 days later, the animal showed clinical signs signalling a relapse of congestive heart failure. The owner decided to euthanize the horse, and based on necropsy results, the relapse was attributed to an accumulation of thick, yellowish fibrinous material on the pericardium’s inner layer that likely caused a constrictive cardiomyopathy (heart disease). Fibrin is a fibrous protein that plays a critical role in the clotting of blood, and its presence was a common finding in post-mortem examinations of all four horses. While the WCVM clinical team can’t definitively prove the connection between forest tent caterpillars and pericarditis, they do recommend that owners be aware of the potential risk and to prevent their horses from accidentally ingesting the insects during outbreaks. Compared to other parts of Canada and the U.S., outbreaks of forest tent caterpillars in Saskatchewan are unpredictable. Reference: Chapuis RJJ, Ragno VM, Ariza CA, Movasseghi AR, Sayi S, Uehlinger FD, Montgomery JB. “Septic fibrinous pericarditis in four horses in Saskatchewan following an outbreak of forest tent caterpillars in 2017.” Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2020. 61:724-30.

Western College of Veterinary Medicine


Treasure By Lynne Gunville

Treasure with Dr. James Carmalt. Christina Weese



Bright-eyed and well developed, Treasure appeared to be a perfectly healthy foal except for one critical flaw: the black and white Gypsy Vanner filly had a steady dribble of urine running down her hind legs. That telltale trickle, along with significant urine scalding of the skin below her vagina, definitely put a stain on the filly’s future. Incontinence is expected in older, experienced mothers, but no one was prepared to deal with this messy problem in such a young horse — especially during -30 C winters on the Prairies. By October 2020, Treasure was being advertised online, potentially destined for the equine feedlot. That’s when the five-monthold filly’s luck changed. Among the users who saw Treasure’s ad on social media was Cindy Thomas of Evansburg, Alta., along with several other horse owners representing Horse Heroes Alberta. The not-forprofit rehoming network’s mandate is to help horses in need, and in Thomas’ eyes, Treasure’s situation aptly fit the description. “She was just down on her luck, and we couldn’t let her go,” says Thomas, who helped make the sale and brought the filly back to the farm that she and her husband operate west of Edmonton. While the filly settled in, Thomas began calling local veterinary clinics to see if anyone could help treat Treasure’s issue — one that’s often seen in dogs but rarely in horses. Treasure’s lucky streak continued when Thomas expanded her search to Saskatchewan and called Dr. James Carmalt, a professor and equine surgical specialist at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Veterinary Medical Centre (VMC). “As soon as I talked to Dr. Carmalt, he was so eager to help,” says Thomas. “He basically confirmed that it was an issue with her ureter, and he just said, ‘Let’s bring her in and let me see.’” Misdirected tube After Thomas hauled the filly to Saskatoon in late October, Carmalt verified that Treasure had an ectopic ureter, a congenital abnormality in one of the tubes that normally take urine from the kidney into the bladder. This misdirected tube was bypassing the bladder and dropping the urine into the birth canal, resulting in a constant dribble of urine out of the filly’s vagina. Carmalt knew of two options for resolving the problem: he could remove the entire kidney, or he could try reconnecting the abnormal ureter to the bladder. The first option would eliminate the source of urine flowing to the abnormal ureter, but as Carmalt points out, a kidney removal is a


il Ta



et Ur Bladder


substantial procedure in a horse. While the second option was much less invasive, there was no real guarantee that it would work. With Thomas’ support, Carmalt began researching the second option, a surgical procedure that would use a laser to create a stoma or artificial opening in the side of the abnormal ureter tube that was enveloped in the wall of Treasure’s bladder. This opening would allow the urine to empty into the bladder rather than bypassing it and flowing into the filly’s birth canal. “It’s really been a huge combined effort — in-house, nationally and internationally. There’s a massive amount of learning and collaboration, talking to people about how best to manage her, trading ideas, and discussing options with other professional colleagues in Canada and around the world,” says Carmalt. “We were also very lucky that we had a client like Cindy who was willing to try these options.” With Treasure sedated and positioned in the stocks, Carmalt, surgical resident Dr. Suzanne Mund and the clinical team carefully guided an endoscope into the filly’s ureter and used the laser’s energy to “burn” a small opening in the ureter’s side into the bladder, a process that required significant planning and precision. The end of the abnormal ureter was then sutured to block the flow of urine into the filly’s vagina. “We had a ’scope in the bladder and a second one in the abnormal ureter. That way, we could turn the light off on the ’scope in the bladder and look for the light in the ureter,” explains Carmalt. “Then, we … just cut straight down from the narrow tube into the bigger bladder with the laser.” A few days later the team performed a second procedure, using the laser once more to enlarge the initial hole until it was about one inch in size and less likely to close over.

Kidney Kidney








Abnormal ureteral opening is sutured

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Normal horse




Small opening is made in side of ureter tube, allowing urine to empty into bladder

‘Willing to give it a go’ Although the steady dribble of urine has stopped, Carmalt cautions that Treasure’s congenital abnormalities include a smaller bladder that’s positioned abnormally and may cause subsequent issues such as incontinence — a condition that can probably be managed with medication. He points out that unique cases such as this one provide valuable learning experiences, particularly in a veterinary teaching hospital, and he’s grateful that Thomas and her rescue organization were willing to have him try a procedure that was far from a sure thing. “I worked out the other day that we had about $200,000 worth of equipment beside this horse when we were working on her,” says Carmalt. “On top of that you’ve got to have a team that is willing to give it a go and potentially fail. And you need the right client — Cindy liked the idea that the team was thinking of the filly’s quality of life first.” In addition to the surgeons (Carmalt along with Mund and surgical resident Dr. Antonio Guerra), others involved with Treasure’s treatment and care included theriogenologist Dr. Claire Card, anesthesia team members, registered veterinary technologists and attendants as well as several fourth-year veterinary students. While the students benefited from the opportunity to witness and help treat a rare condition, they also learned the value of trying new things — an important career lesson whenever they’re challenged by a case or a procedure they haven’t done before. “It’s an example of using everything around you — your colleagues, your tools, your brain, your comparative knowledge of other species — and pulling it all together for something that you haven’t seen before,” says Carmalt, who plans to write and submit a report about Treasure’s case to a peer-reviewed journal.


Treasure’s case

Since Treasure was considered a valuable teaching case, the VMC waived a portion of its total fee. It was an opportunity to generate good will and promote learning, but Carmalt also describes the case as a “practice builder,” helping to establish a good relationship with clients. That has certainly held true for Thomas and her organization who have brought several more cases to the VMC’s Large Animal Clinic for treatment. Carmalt enjoys taking on challenging cases, largely because they push him to keep learning and to stay open to new ideas. “From a teaching standpoint, it shows the students that you are never too far along in your career to benefit from the help or guidance of other people — and that it’s okay to ask for help,” says Carmalt. “It also shows them that the only time you truly fail is when you don’t try. As long as you keep the welfare of the animal paramount and the client understands that you have never done this before, you might ultimately lose — which is going to suck horribly — but at least you tried.” Thomas greatly appreciates the work that the WCVM team put into Treasure’s care and treatment, and she particularly likes the idea that students were able to learn from the filly’s case. The VMC team kept Treasure around for a few weeks last fall after the procedure so they could monitor her recovery, but she’s now back home and enjoying life. “She will stay here on our farm,” says Thomas. “We’ll train her to be a little trail buddy, and she’ll be our organization’s ‘spokesperson’ — she’s proof that you shouldn’t give up on them so easily.” Horse Heroes Alberta (HHA) is a not-for-profit network of people across Western Canada working together to help horses in need. Since 2018, HHA has found new homes for over 500 horses, donkeys and mules. Visit for details. Western College of Veterinary Medicine


A WCVM equine research team will collect blood samples from healthy horses and horses diagnosed with PPID for a hormone reference values study.

Hormone baseline

for horses in the West By Myrna MacDonald

Christina Weese

How do levels of insulin and other hormones in western Canadian horses compare to hormone levels measured in horses living in other parts of Canada and around the world? It’s a question that Dr. Julia Montgomery aims to answer through a collaborative study with Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS), Saskatchewan’s provincial veterinary diagnostic laboratory. Once published, the study’s results will help to establish reference values for hormones that accurately reflect the horse population in Canada’s western provinces. 10


“From a veterinarian’s perspective, establishing western Canadian reference values is one of the bigger benefits from this study,” says Montgomery, an associate professor in the WCVM’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences. Another big benefit for veterinarians and horse owners will be regional access to testing for common endocrine diseases. By 2022, PDS will be equipped to offer a full range of endocrine testing to western Canadian veterinary clinics — including the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. Right now, diagnosing these diseases in less than a week just isn’t possible for western Canadian veterinary clinics. Samples must be sent to veterinary diagnostic laboratories at the University of Guelph in Ontario or at Cornell University in New York before veterinarians can gain a complete diagnostic picture of their equine patients. Because of the distance, wait times

vary from five to 10 days with the chance of shipping issues causing further delays in receiving results. This initiative is a great example of the collaboration between the veterinary college and PDS, whose laboratories and diagnostic facilities are based in the WCVM building. It’s also a group effort: the WCVM’s equine clinicians gather blood samples, the endocrine laboratory team in the college’s Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences validate tests, and PDS co-ordinates the activities and eventually offers the tests. “It’s a real symbiotic relationship,” points out Montgomery. “We recognize what’s needed on the clinical side, and we can help give input in what’s a worthwhile investment. As for PDS, they have all the expertise in house that makes it possible to realize these types of projects.” Measuring levels of hormones such as insulin, adrenocorticotropic hormone

(ACTH) and thyroxine (T4) is critical for accurately diagnosing and treating equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) and thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism. Endocrine disorders such as PPID and EMS are diseases related to the hormone-producing glands of the horse’s body. Older horses and ponies that are obese are at higher risk for these diseases.

Reference values for western Canadian horses means veterinarians can be more confident in endocrine testing results. Caitlyn Taylor

By 2022, PDS will be equipped to offer a full range of endocrine testing to western Canadian veterinary clinics — including the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. “This is really important because these diseases are so common, and they’re going to become more common as our horse population ages,” says Montgomery, who receives at least one or two endocrine-related calls a week while on shift at the WCVM’s Large Animal Clinic. “As well, we’re seeing more obese horses — the obesity problem is not going to go away any time soon.” Having these tests available in Western Canada will mean a faster turnaround for results, which means treatment protocols can begin sooner. Horses diagnosed with EMS can develop laminitis while horses with PPID can have a number of chronic problems associated with immunosuppression, such as chronic sinusitis or corneal ulceration. Some horses even suffer from both PPID and EMS at the same time. “We can also be more confident about whether a test is positive or negative when we have reference values for our own horse population in our geographic area,” adds Montgomery. “Comparing the results of a horse to values that were obtained from horses in the same population — and not from a population in another region — is very important. We can be more confident in these fine-tuned results.” As Montgomery explains, geography as well as seasons can affect baseline hormone levels in horses: “We know that there is a seasonal variation — that’s very well documented. But we also know that it can be different based on geographical location, which is likely linked to daylight length. This has been shown in studies done on both northern and southern hemispheres.” Beginning this spring, Montgomery and other WCVM clinicians will collect blood

samples from at least 40 client-owned healthy horses and from 20 or more horses diagnosed with PPID. The team will collect these samples during farm visits by the WCVM’s Equine Field Service or during regular appointments at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre. Horses recruited for the study will be sampled once for insulin and T4 — measurements required for EMS diagnosis or diagnosis of thyroid disorders. The WCVM team will also collect samples for the hormone ACTH, which is an essential measurement for diagnosing PPID. Since normal ACTH values can vary by season, WCVM researchers will collect samples from the study’s horses in the spring and fall — about five months apart. WCVM veterinarians will provide owners with their respective test results free of charge, along with a written report about their findings and recommendations. Owners can request further testing or therapies for their horses, but they will be responsible for any additional fees. Having a full range of equine endocrine tests available in Western Canada will help to make the WCVM and other western Canadian veterinary clinics more self-reliant — a trait that has proven to be especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic

with the heightened demand for medical supplies and services. In another effort to help horse owners, the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre’s pharmacy now offers the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) stimulation test, a dynamic test used to diagnose PPID. “It gives us a way to bring out the horses in the ‘grey zone’ when they could be in the early stages of this disease and results from a baseline ACTH test aren’t clear enough,” says Montgomery. She adds that this particular test is only available for use by WCVM clinicians since it contains products compounded in the college’s pharmacy. As Western Canada’s veterinary referral centre, Montgomery says it’s critical for the WCVM to continue improving the standard of care available and to stay up to date with diagnostic and clinical services. “We also need to be more proactive in helping other western Canadian veterinary clinics have access to these types of tests,” says Montgomery. Her hope is that this equine-focused project will lead to more mutually beneficial efforts between PDS and WCVM: “It’s a great collaboration.” For more information about enrolling your horse in the endocrine study, contact Western College of Veterinary Medicine



EQUINE EXPO MOVES TO OCTOBER Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 10th annual Saskatchewan Equine Expo has been rescheduled for Oct. 28-31, 2021. The annual event, which usually takes place in February, is a partnership between Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park, Saskatchewan Horse Federation and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM). The four-day event, which showcases the province’s horse industry, features a trainer’s challenge, a trade show and educational seminars and activities. Visit for updates.

2021 EquineEd Talks This spring, the WCVM is hosting a series of online horse health seminars that are geared for horse owners and enthusiasts. The presenters — all members of the WCVM’s equine clinical team — will cover a range of topics including equine asthma, equine metabolic syndrome, gastric ulcers, cardiology and foal care. The evening seminars are scheduled from February to April. To register for the free presentations, visit (click on “Education”).

Several members of the WCVM equine clinical team have moved on to new opportunities elsewhere. In October 2020, Dr. Kate Robinson returned to Ontario and joined McKee-Pownall Equine Services in Campbellville, Ont., as an associate veterinarian. Robinson was a WCVM faculty member and part of the Equine Field Service. In December 2020, Dr. Claudia Cruz Villagran returned to Mexico after completing a term position. Cruz was an assistant professor and part of the large animal internal medicine team. In February 2021, Dr. Angela Reynolds left the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre where she had been a clinical associate with Equine Field Service for two years. A 2014 WCVM graduate, she completed her residency-graduate program in 2018. In March, Reynolds opened her own practice called Rhythm Equine Veterinary Services in Saskatoon.

IN MEMORIAM Equine veterinarian Dr. Barbara Good of Langley, B.C., passed away on June 22, 2020, after a lengthy illness. Born in Vancouver, Good grew up as part of a career army family and lived in Vancouver, Wainwright, Montréal and Ottawa during her youth. Described as a “horse-crazy little girl,” Good went on to attend the WCVM and graduated with great distinction in 1980. Horses continued to be a focus for Good’s veterinary career, and she was well known as an accomplished rider and a successful equine professional. Good is greatly missed by her partner Jim McKenzie, son Brian, daughter-in-law Kristine, grandchildren Emily and Natalie, and a large circle of family and friends. Good’s family included the Townsend Equine Health Research Fund (TEHRF) as an option for memorial donations. In the past months, the college has received generous gifts in Good’s memory. These donations will help to support vital horse health research and training that will ultimately benefit Western Canada’s horse industry for which Good served throughout her career.

EQUINE-FOCUSED GRADUATES Four WCVM graduate students whose research programs investigated horse health issues convocated from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) in November 2020. • Maria Lopez Rodriguez, MSc degree. Supervisor: Dr. Claire Card. Thesis title: “The role of glucosinolates and iodine on thyroid hormone concentrations in mares and foals.” For horses living on the Prairies, there’s little information about iodine levels in their serum or milk, or about their selenium levels, which contributes to thyroid hormone production. Lopez’s work showed that feeding mares certain plant compounds called glucosinolates (GSL) also interferes with their iodine uptake and use. GSL compounds are found in plants such as canola and mustard. GSL metabolites prevent the thyroid gland and the mammary gland tissue from taking up iodine. Researchers speculate that multiple factors such as GSL in horses’ feed, nitrates in the feed and water, and low concentrations of iodine and selenium in western Canadian soil leading to deficiencies may cause primary hypothyroidism in horses. This is especially significant for pregnant mares since it may result in foals with congenital hypothyroidism dysmaturity syndrome (CHDS). Lopez Rodriguez is a WCVM large animal clinical associate. 12


• Mariana Diel de Amorim, PhD degree. Supervisor: Dr. Claire Card. Thesis title: “Role of oxytocin and oxytocinase in the maternal recognition of pregnancy.” Diel de Amorim’s research work focused on advancing the knowledge of the maternal recognition of pregnancy (MRP) — the signal produced by the embryo alerting the mother’s body of the pregnancy. It’s one of the earliest communications that occurs during pregnancy between the embryo and the mother. Although the MRP signal is clearly understood in other domestic species, it remains a mystery in horses. Diel de Amorim is a lecturer at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. • Lea Riddell, MSc degree. Supervisor: Dr. Steve Manning. Thesis title: “The systemic and intrauterine effects of granulocyte-colony stimulating factor in mares.” Riddell and Manning focused on a major problem in many broodmares: inflammation and/or infection of the uterus after breeding (endometritis). Previous research work with cattle has shown that a protein (granulocyte colony stimulating factor or G-CSF) helped to reduce inflamma-

Research in print A round up of WCVM-related equine research articles that have been recently published in peer-reviewed journals Chapuis RJJ, Ragno VM, Ariza CA, Movasseghi AR, Sayi S, Uehlinger F, Montgomery JB. “Septic fibrinous pericarditis in four horses in Saskatchewan following an outbreak of forest tent caterpillars in 2017.” Canadian Veterinary Journal. July 2020. 61(7):724-730. Yoshimura S, Barber SM, Tucker ML, Bracamonte JL, Mund SJK, Thomas KL. “Sinocutaneous fistula repair with a masseter muscle transposition flap combined with wound matrix and cancellous bone graft in a horse: a new technique.” Veterinary Surgery. 2020. 49:818-24. Greenwood S, Chow-Lockerbie B, Epp T, Knight C, Wachoski-Dark G, MacDonald-Dickinson V, Wobeser B. “Prevalence and prognostic impact of Equus caballus papillomavirus type 2 infection in equine squamous cell carcinomas in western Canadian horses.” Veterinary Pathology. 2020. 57(5):623-631. doi:10.1177/0300985820941266. Le NPK, Gerdts V, Singh B. “Integrin alpha-v/beta3 expression in equine lungs and jejunum.” Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. Oct. 2020. 84(4):245-251. Greenwood S, Chow-Lockerbie B, Ramsauer S, Wachoski-Dark G, Knight C, Wobeser B. “Prevalence of Equus caballus papillomavirus type-2 infection and seropositivity in asymptomatic western Canadian horses.” Veterinary Pathology. 2020. 57(5):632641. doi:10.1177/0300985820941270. Carmalt JL, Tucker ML. “Arthroscopic approach and intraarticular anatomy of the equine discomandibular joint compartment of the temporomandibular joint.” Veterinary Surgery. 2020. 49:1326-1333.

Yoshimura S, Koziy RV, Dickinson R, Moshynskyy I, McKenzie JA, Simko E, Bracamonte JL. “Use of serum amyloid A in serum and synovial fluid to detect eradication of infection in experimental septic arthritis in horses.” Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research. July 2020. 84(3):198-204. Greenwood S. “Investigation of Equus caballus papillomavirus type-2 (EcPV-2) in asymptomatic and symptomatic horses.” Aug. 2020. PhD thesis. MacKay AV, McOnie RC, Riddell LP, Robinson KA. “Characterization of the use of shock wave therapy among equine veterinarians.” Canadian Veterinary Journal. Sept. 2020. 61(9):990-993. Zhang M, Dickinson RM. “Equine small intestinal angiomatosis.” Canadian Veterinary Journal. Nov. 2020. 61(11):1159-1161. Anderson SL, Duke-Novakovski T, Robinson AR, Townsend HGG, Singh B. “Depletion of pulmonary intravascular macrophages rescues inflammation-induced delayed neutrophil apoptosis in horses.” American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology. Nov. 2020. doi: 10.1152/ ajplung.00392.2019.

Visit for more news updates tion in the bovine uterus while potentially increasing pregnancy rates. The WCVM team found that G-CSF may prove to be a less invasive and cost-effective way to treat endometritis in horses. More research is needed, but the team’s preliminary results are encouraging. Riddell is a clinical associate at Elder’s Equine Veterinary Service in Winnipeg, Man. • Sarah Greenwood, PhD degree. Supervisor: Dr. Bruce Wobeser. Thesis title: “Investigation of Equus caballus papillomavirus type2 (EcPV-2) in asymptomatic and symptomatic horses.” EcPV-2 has recently been recognized as a potential cause of genital squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) in horses — but little is understood about EcPV-2. Through her research work, Greenwood

concluded that EcPV-2 exposure and asymptomatic infection are frequent in western Canadian horses and their exposure likely occurs early in life. The transmission can occur in utero as well as through non-sexual routes. The detection rate of EcPV-2 in SCCs is similar to that of healthy skin, but EcPV-2 infection in non-genital SCCs appears to be less “intense” as compared to genital SCCs. EcPV-2 status of genital SCCs does not affect overall survival times. EcPV-2 infection does influence p53 expression, although not in the anticipated manner of triggering p53 proteasomal degradation. Greenwood is a veterinary pathologist at Charles River Laboratories in Sherbrooke, Que.

Western College of Veterinary Medicine


Honour their lives

with the gift of Equine health

Pay tribute the lives of your patients, clients and loved ones by making a donation to the Townsend Equine Health Research Fund (TEHRF) through its memorial program. Each time you give to the fund, we will send a letter to the client or loved one’s family acknowledging your gift to the equine health fund.

“Our practice (Paton & Martin Veterinary Services) began to make contributions to the fund on behalf of clients when their horses passed away. We have found this to be a gratifying contribution and have been humbled by the responses that we have received from many of our clients. I think that it is very helpful for them to know that their horses have been honoured in such a fashion. The fund gives horse owners the additional opportunity to contribute to this very worthwhile cause: supporting vital research in the areas of equine health.” Dr. David Paton (WCVM ’78) TEHRF donor

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Single Pole Exercises

One pole? There is still plenty to do. By Jec A. Ballou Simple exercises can sometimes be the most effective because riders are apt to practice them more consistently. And when it comes to movement and fitness, consistency matters above all. I often use the following single pole exercises in clinics because they offer an easy way to derive the postural benefits of pole work without the logistics and effort involved in setting up more complex routines. When you are short on time or dealing with poor weather, these exercises offer a convenient way of ensuring you do not miss the calisthenics your horse needs. Riders are occasionally surprised how a little rearranging of the horse’s posture, as required with single pole maneuvers, can create notable improvements. These postural adjustments include activating and lifting the base of the neck, greater rotation in the trunk and back, and stimulation of sensory nerves in feet and forelimbs. Obviously, these exercises alone will not make a horse fit. But when practiced 44




for five or ten minutes before your ride, they help activate nerve pathways and deep postural muscles that might otherwise hibernate during periods of less overall exercise. Practiced with intention and focus, they can function similarly to the type of form drills performed by a dancer or sprinter prior to performing a routine. These exercises can be done from the saddle as well, although I generally encourage riders to do them from the ground so they develop a daily habit of observing their horse’s posture and alignment. Making them part of your pre-ride groundwork is a useful part of your warm-up. For set-up, you can use fence posts, jump poles, or whatever pole you have available that measures at least two metres long. By no means do you need to set these up in an arena. Since you only need a small amount of space, I encourage you to use an area outside your arena somewhere.

• Stand your horse parallel to a pole. Ask him to stand as close as possible to the pole, the closer the better. • Now ask him to keep his hind feet planted beside the pole while making a half turn on the haunches.


• He should end up facing the new direction but still parallel to the pole.

• Now halt and repeat a half turn on the haunches to change direction again. Some horses are very mindful of the pole’s presence, in which case there is no need to raise it off the ground. If, however, your horse repeatedly trips or swings in to the pole, it can help to raise the pole on risers.


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Transitions Beside a Pole

In this exercise, the pole serves as an alignment tool. The horse is aware both visually and physically of the pole’s position and he therefore makes small postural adjustments to account for his own positioning beside it. In this way, his sensory nerves are stimulated with very little interference on your part. Remember, sensory nerves communicate with motor nerves. The more we support this communication, the more refined a horse’s movement can become.

Turns Beside a Pole s

Your horse’s positioning beside the pole is what helps resolve imbalances and postural anomalies in this exercise. It is imperative that you keep his hind feet as close as possible to the pole. If or when he tries to stiffen through his body, loses his balance, or falls forward on the forehand, his positioning will be compromised, and you will suddenly find yourself quite far away from the pole. If this happens, regroup and reposition, and then carry on.

• Ask him to step forward a couple of steps, remaining closely positioned next to the pole.

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Turns Beside a Pole

Starting Position

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Transitions Beside a Pole

The goal here is to be as close to the pole as possible at all times without actually standing on it. • Walk your horse energetically towards the pole aligning him parallel to it. • When the horse’s body is alongside the pole, halt promptly. • Stand immobile for three seconds. • Then back up six steps, remaining as close to the pole as possible without hitting it.


• Immediately walk forward and halt again.

Transitions Before and After a Pole 46




• Walk forward away from the pole and prepare to approach it again, repeating the above sequence. Once you have repeated the sequence above, you can modify it to include trotting on your approach to the pole. You can also vary which side of the pole you choose to halt in order to keep your horse’s attention.

Transitions Before and After a Pole The objective here is to make lots of small adjustments of the horse’s balance and energy. I often think of this being akin to a “quick feet” drill that human soccer players do.

• Walk or jog towards the pole. Two steps before you cross the pole, transition to a different gait/speed to cross the pole. For instance, if you were approaching at a jog, make a quick downward transition to walk, step across the pole, and then immediately resume your jog. • Repeat this sequence, alternating transitions between walk, jog, and halt both before and after you ride across the pole each time. • Be sure you do not ride the same sequence. The goal is to keep you and your horse alert and responsive.


Place a single pole on the ground or raised to a height of six inches.

Walking Uphill Over a Pole

Walking Uphill Over a Pole

This exercise can provide a little fine tuning of the horse’s extensor and flexor muscle chains. If you have the option to raise your pole off the ground several inches that is ideal, unless of course you are working on snowy terrain in which case you will leave the pole flat on the ground. Place your pole about halfway up a gentle slope that is 20- to 30-metres long. A gentle slope works perfectly for this exercise; there is no need to hunt out the steepest hill you have.

• Encourage your horse to walk up the hill with a low and stretched neck position and with animated steps. • Cross the pole and proceed a few more metres. The goal is to step across the pole without any interruption in his stride rhythm. • Then immediately turn around and head back down the slope crossing over the centre of the pole. Proceed a few more metres and then stop and turn around again, facing uphill. • Repeat this sequence at least 10 times. Aim for the same speed and stride lengths heading up and down the hill. These are some of my favourite quick, efficient uses of a single pole to keep your calisthenics routine engaged when you might have less time or disagreeable weather. Obviously, there are plenty of other creative uses for a single pole: circling around a pole, side passing around a pole, straddling a pole with each set of legs, small gymnastic jumps. The key point here is that while a grid or sequence of poles offers terrific strength training, you can still accomplish some good work with b one plain old pole on the ground. > Jec A. Ballou is a regular contributor to this magazine. Read her bio on page 83. SPRING 2021





Equestrian Guilt


By Annika McGivern, BA Psychology, MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology

In my work as an equestrian sport psychology coach, I spend a lot of time talking with riders about guilt. It seems that we riders experience a lot of guilt in response to an amazing variety of circumstances. No one reading this article is unacquainted with this feeling, but let’s look at the actual definition. Guilt is defined as a sense of unease, regret, and responsibility in connection with our actions. Usually, our experience of guilt can be traced back to a sense of having not lived up to expectations in some way. The expectations in our lives can be shaped by our circumstances, our families, and our jobs. However, more commonly than we realise, the 48




expectations that cause us the most trouble come from ourselves. As a negative emotion, guilt will always reduce our ability to focus and perform. When we are caught up and distracted by feelings of guilt, anger, shame, or frustration, we become less likely to push ourselves, unable to focus, and less able to recover quickly when something goes wrong. Learning to manage our guilt limits this influence, allows us to reach our goals faster, and allows us to experience less emotional turmoil along the way.

Two types of guilt

There are two types of guilt: helpful and unhelpful. We experience helpful guilt when we have behaved inappropriately.

This type of guilt has the potential to help by serving as a signal that there is something we need to pay attention to and improve about ourselves. If we lash out unfairly at a friend and feel guilty afterwards, that guilt raises our awareness that something needs to change. Perhaps we need to practice regulating our emotions and reactions. However, this guilt is only truly helpful if we use it as inspiration to take action and make real changes around our behaviour. Nurturing your guilt while taking no steps to rectify the situation and improve your emotional regulation helps nobody, and it can also cause you to miss an important opportunity for personal learning and growth.

Unhelpful guilt is usually experienced in a way that doesn’t make a lot of sense. For example, we may feel guilty when our friend’s horse is repeatedly lame, and our horse is consistently sound. Although the situation with our friend’s horse is completely beyond our control, the guilt appears anyway. Similarly, riders commonly feel guilty every time they make a mistake that impacts their horse. However, there is no way to prevent ourselves from making mistakes. Mistakes are beyond our control, and so guilt is not a useful reaction. Unhelpful guilt is dangerous, because it impacts our well-being negatively, holds no real opportunity for personal growth, and impairs our performance. Let’s look at some common sources of unhelpful guilt and what we can do to challenge this limiting emotion. Something I see time and time again (and have personally experienced) is riders suffering from guilt because of unrealistic, self-imposed expectations. These expectations are often linked to our belief systems around what it means to be a good rider. Because these belief systems and self-imposed expectations are usually subconscious, we first must make them conscious by paying more attention to them. Listen to what your internal voice is saying.

Your internal voice might be saying something like this:

The unrealistic expectations you are setting for yourself are:

1. I should always want to go to the barn and ride my horse.

1. I should always be motivated to ride — and if I’m not, it means I don’t care enough or don’t deserve success.

2. I should be improving faster.

2. I should progress smoothly and continuously and hit no real challenges along the way — and if I do, it means I don’t have the necessary talent to be a good rider.

3. This shouldn’t be so difficult.

3. I should not experience any emotional struggle in the pursuit of my goals — and if I do, it means I’m not capable of handling the pressure involved.

4. My horse deserves a better rider than me.

4. My horse should never have to deal with me making a mistake — and will face permanent consequences if I make any mistakes.

5. My horse needs 100 percent of my energy and focus.

5. I should commit all my time and energy to my horse and my riding — and if I don’t, that means I’m not dedicated enough.

6. My family needs 100 percent of my energy and focus.

6. I should not take time away from my family to focus on myself — and if I do, that means I’m not a good enough parent/partner/child.


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Helpful guilt raises our self-awareness and can be used as inspiration for improvement.

Imagine two different riders. One rider holds herself to impossible standards and berates herself every time she doesn’t reach those expectations. As she fails to meet these impossible standards over and over, she takes this as evidence that she just isn’t good enough. The guilt becomes overwhelming and this rider’s

enjoyment of and performance in her sport is seriously impacted. Now, think back to helpful and unhelpful guilt. Which do you think is affecting this person? Because no one has 100 percent control over their motivation or the challenges that come their way, or how many mistakes they make, or how other people perceive them, this guilt is unhelpful. There is no way for this rider to solve the

To overcome unhelpful guilt we must learn to pay attention to our internal voice and challenge our unrealistic expectations. 50




problem of her guilt as long as she continues to set unrealistic expectations. Our second rider also sets big goals for herself, but she sets more realistic expectations of what the journey towards those goals is going to be like. She expects to struggle, to meet challenges, and to experience varying levels of motivation. She expects to make mistakes, even fail at points along the way. She expects to learn to manage these mistakes and difficult times better as a result of this journey. As she meets challenges, makes mistakes, and learns from them, this rider becomes increasingly skilled at managing her mistakes. She is able to meet her own expectations again and again, and build evidence that she has the ability to consistency grow and improve. This rider’s enjoyment of her sport increases and her performance steadily improves. PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/SYCHOV SERHIL

Do these expectations feel familiar?

As a negative emotion, guilt will always reduce our ability to focus and perform.

Does our second rider still feel guilt sometimes? Of course. This rider might feel guilty if she fails to manage herself well in response to a mistake. However, because she has 100 percent control over her own response to her mistake, this guilt is helpful and serves as a reminder to push herself to grow. However, the guilt is only truly helpful if this rider takes action to improve her management of her mistakes as a result. We have a choice. Which rider will we choose to be? We can continue to tell ourselves that we should always be motivated, that we shouldn’t make mistakes or struggle along the way, and continue to feel guilt and other negative emotions when our reality doesn’t measure up to those expectations. Or we can choose to adjust our expectations of what it means to be a successful equestrian. Our guilt will always relate back to our expectations. The secret is not to lower expectations, but simply adjust them to be more aligned with reality, and less aligned with our inner perfectionism. Changing how you manage your guilt takes awareness and daily practice. The first step is to be more curious about your guilty feelings and think about where that guilt is coming from, or what action it is connected to. If you are feeling guilty about something that you can control, such as your own behaviour and reactions, this is probably helpful guilt. Use this guilt as a sign that you have an opportunity to improve something about yourself. Do the work, make sincere amends if necessary, and then let the guilt go. Once you have taken action, the guilt is no longer helpful. If you are feeling guilty about something you don’t have any control over, then it is probably unhelpful guilt. Use this guilt as a sign that you need to look at your expectations for yourself and perhaps make a few adjustments. Remind yourself that mistakes and failures are how we learn, and that there is no way to become a great rider without them. Remember that you can set big, exciting goals for yourself and hold realistic expectations about the process of achieving them. The secret is that by beating ourselves up less, and having more compassion and patience with ourselves, we move towards our goals faster. From a place of self-compassion, we are able to focus, apply effort, and recover quickly from setbacks. Through selfcompassion we find the key ingredients for steady, consistent improvement. b



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SOLO HORSE PACKING ADVENTURES in Canada’s Southern Rocky Mountains By Tania Millen

Sven, the Haflinger pack pony, jerked his head up and snorted. I looked uphill towards our camp and caught a humpy flash of beige ducking behind a stunted fir tree. Grizzly, I thought. I was hand-grazing Sven and my paint mare, Jewel, on a frosty July morning in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Columbia during a solo pack trip. When Sven jerked his head up again, a beige grizzly bear shambled downhill PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK/PROTASOV AN

towards us. Just 20 metres uphill from the first bear, a second bear rose


up on its hind legs out of the brush before dropping down onto all fours and following the frontrunner. As the two bears lumbered towards us, Sven danced around on his lead line while Jewel kept grazing, and my heart beat a little quicker. As I considered what to do, a third bear trundled out of the trees and followed the first two. They were all grizzlies, all full size, and all coming straight at us. I started to sweat.









ount Assiniboine Provincial Park (MAPP) is located in southeast British Columbia on the west side of North America’s continental divide, and borders Banff National Park (BNP). In summer 2020, I decided to do solo pack trips in southern BNP and MAPP, traveling through areas I hadn’t previously visited. The first trip started at the Mount Shark trailhead in Spray Valley Provincial Park, south of Canmore, Alberta where I tacked up Jewel, packed Sven, and rode west into BNP. The well-used Bryant Creek Trail was bustling with friendly hikers, and after a few hours I started looking for a campsite.

At 3,600 metres, Mount Assiniboine is known as the “Matternhorn of the Rockies” and is prized by climbers for its challenging slopes.


Packed and ready to go at the Mount Shark trailhead in Spray Valley Provincial Park before riding into Banff National Park.





Sven watches the elk pass by the Banff Light Horse Association pens.


My campsite on Bryant Creek Trail was an old horse camp with good grazing.




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Sven and Jewel appreciated the good grazing at this campsite. Although permits are required to camp in Canada’s National Parks, horse camps are rarely signed and some have been dismantled.

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There are roughly 65 grizzly bears in Banff National Park, and approximately 20,000 in Western Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and British Columbia.

Many horse camps in Canada’s mountain parks were created in the early 1900s by hunters and outfitters and they still offer plentiful grazing, drinking water, and sheltering trees for today’s packers. However, today’s horses and riders require permits to camp in Canada’s National Parks, and horse camps can be challenging to locate as they’re rarely signed and some have been dismantled from lack of use. So, as we trekked along, I watched carefully for old blazes and limbed trees. When I spotted a little-used trail across a brush-filled meadow backed by tall trees, I followed it across a creek and into an old horse camp with knee-high grass and a hitching rail. After untacking the horses and hobbling them to graze, hanging my food bag on a purpose-built rail high in the trees, and pitching my tent, I flopped down by the horses to relax. Home for the night. The following day we followed the trail — signed as a grizzly bear thoroughfare — over the continental divide into the sub-alpine meadows of MAPP and a frigid snowstorm. The Mount Assiniboine area was historically well travelled by First Nations, and photos of teepees beneath towering 3,600metre Mount Assiniboine alongside cerulean Lake Magog are quintessential Canadiana. In 1894, colonial explorers traversed the area and Mount Assiniboine subsequently became a highly sought-after objective by mountaineers due to its classic pyramid shape and difficult climbing. The park surrounding the mountain was created in 1922 and remains popular with hikers and skiers, while the “Matterhorn of the Rockies” is still a prized achievement for climbers. Mount Assiniboine Lodge, the first backcountry ski lodge in the Canadian Rockies, was built in 1928 and still serves backcountry clientele, some of whom arrive by helicopter. However, I was sleeping in a tent at the designated horse camp while the stalwart horses were tied beneath nearby trees. The storm left a trace of snow, which quickly evaporated in the morning sunshine, and I spent the day drying gear, watching climbers ascend Mount Assiniboine, and supervising grazing. The next morning the horses’ grazing was disrupted by three not-so-little bears. As the bears trundled directly toward us, I decided to lead the horses — Sven snorting and dancing, and Jewel grazing — 90 degrees away from the bears’ route. In turn, the bears shifted their route so they were travelling away from us, too. When I realized


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On the Baker Creek Trail near Lake Louise, heading up the Ptarmigan Valley toward remote Badger Pass.

Jewel and Sven at Badger Pass, one of the highest passes with a horse trail over it in Canada’s Rocky Mountains.

A boundary monument marks the Palliser Pass on the continental divide at the head of the Spray River Valley.


At the top of Pulsatilla Pass with the valley and Pulsatilla Lake in the background.





they weren’t a threat, I stopped and watched them, awed by a close encounter with one of Canada’s most iconic species on their own turf where they are the apex predator and I am potential prey. The day kept getting better, and I revelled in the good fortune of experiencing such a stunning place during a day ride through sparkling meadows under bluebird skies. We stopped for lunch at a viewpoint of Mount Assiniboine before returning to camp to nap in the sun. On our fifth day, I packed up camp and rode back down the trail to explore more of southern BNP. It was a short ride to our previous camp in the timbers, but in the 30-degrees Celsius heat Jewel was soon sweaty and hiccupping. Concerned for her health, I sent a message via emergency SPOT beacon asking my designated emergency contact for information about horse hiccups. Apparently, horse hiccups or thumps are due to electrolyte imbalance and although Jewel looked fine a few hours

Halfway Hut landmark log cabin in the Ptarmigan Valley of Banff National Park was built at the midway point on the uphill trail to the CPR station at Lake Louise and the Skoki Ski Lodge, to provide overnight shelter for ski tourists on the way to the lodge.

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later, I decided to end the trip to prevent further problems. The following morning I rode out to the trailhead, startling a mountain goat tiptoeing along the valley trail far from its safe cliff-side habitat — a lovely parting gift from the wilds. After a few days of rest at nearby Etherington Horse Camp, we returned to the Mount Shark trailhead, packed up, and rode up the same trail again. This time our objective was the southernmost point of BNP — Palliser Pass — which is on the continental divide at the head of the Spray River Valley. The pass is named after John Palliser who, from 1857 to 1860, led an expedition across the prairies between Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains in what was then Rupert’s Land. Our trip was only four days: two days traveling to and from the campsite, a rest day, and a day ride up to the pass and back. The route included ten kilometres of forested single-track trail, followed by another ten kilometres of trail through serene meadows and vast swamps to a treed headwall. Above the headwall, a small lake was surrounded by talus slopes cascaded off the nearby peaks while a boundary marker indicated subalpine Palliser Pass. The trip was very relaxing, and at the end of it I felt ready for more challenges. After a few more rest days, I drove to Lake Louise with Jewel and Sven for a nine-day solo pack trip through BNP, and my fourth attempt at riding over 2,500 metre-plus remote Badger Pass, one of the highest passes in Canada’s Rocky Mountains with horse trail over it. Our first day was a scenic 18-kilometre slog up the Ptarmigan Valley adjacent to Lake Louise Ski area on well-trampled Baker Creek Trail, which passes the supposedly haunted Halfway Hut and provides access to historic Skoki Lodge. Both the hut and the now five-star lodge

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Following the Cascade Road trail in Banff National Park.

were built in the early 1930s to support ski-tourists and are formally recognized in Canada’s Register of Historic Places. The next day was much tougher. After travelling a short, treed switchbacked section of trail south down to Wildflower Creek, we plodded upward through dense underbrush, washed-out trail, and challengingly steep sections before puffing into subalpine meadows below striking Pulsatilla Pass. After lunching with visiting marmots, I carefully led the horses across a hard-packed slippery

shale side-hill high above Pulsatilla Lake. One slip of the hoof and the horses would have tumbled hundreds of metres into the water below. Following another rocky section, we topped out on windy Pulsatilla Pass, with its extensive views down the valley from whence we’d come. From there we crossed a lingering snow patch, slid down rock and grass slopes, then hustled through wildflower-strewn meadows along upper Johnston Creek, to the trail junction at Badger Creek. After poking around for an hour looking for

the horse camp, I gave up searching and settled the horses in a meadow below the well-organized hiker campsite situated among massive, gnarled trees. On our well-earned rest day, an evening storm blew into camp. Rain and wind battered the tent, swayed the trees, and worried the horses. Having fallen into an uneasy sleep, I woke in the pitch black to an animal sniffing and pacing around the tent. With my heart hammering and bear spray, bangers, and knife at the ready, I unzipped the tent, turned on my headlamp,


Jewel checks the view on the trail up to Pulsatilla Pass.





and laughed in relief as a stout porcupine waddled by. My laughter quickly evaporated. Porcupines are well-known for chewing through salty tack and gear, plus could easily spook the storm-worried horses; however, there wasn’t much I could do but go back to sleep. A quiet dawn brought clear skies for our Badger Pass attempt, so I excitedly packed the horses and rode up the well-built trail, zigzagging ever upwards toward the peaks. When a grey grizzly bear ambled down the trail at us, I turned on the bell around Jewel’s neck and the bear melted into the forest. Eventually, we exited the trees and switchbacked up alpine shale slopes to a steep-sided, windy gap. I’d finally made it to the pass on my fourth attempt! The sea of slate-coloured peaks covered by talus slopes dropping into a tight creek far below us was intimidating. It was country well-suited to mountain goats, not humans or horses, and was no place to dally. But a four-metre-high section of steep snow — remnants of a cornice — barred our route on the east side of the pass. I studied it closely before deciding that the horses could slide down it. However, there was no way back up, so if we slid down it, we’d be committed to traveling over 100 kilometres of wilderness trails back to a trailhead. Deciding the risks were manageable, I led the horses to the lip of the snow embankment. Jewel followed unhesitatingly and glissaded down the slope behind me. But Sven stalled at the top before plunging over an almost one-metre snow ledge, like a big-mountain skier dropping over a cliff, and sliding straight down to the shale below. We were committed. The trail dropped 500 metres in elevation down shale slopes, across subalpine meadows, and through forests to well-named Cascade River. A washed-out section of valley bottom trail resulted in us bushwhacking through bog and river sidechannels before regaining the track. Then the Cascade River Valley opened up before us and Flint’s Park — the iconic central portion of BNP — emerged. At our camp adjacent to a creek and small meadow, I reflected on the day’s accomplishments and felt relieved to be travelling lesschallenging trails through BNP for the rest of the trip. With sunny weather and straightforward trails, the following five days had a relaxed rhythm. We followed the former Cascade Fire Road east then north to the Panther and Red Deer Rivers. The road was bulldozed through BNP in 1936 to help fight a forest SPRING 2021




Jewel, wearing her bear bell, grabs a snack in Central Banff National Park.

The photo on the Cuthead College sign depicts the buildings of the former site where a warden station, a work camp for World War II conscientious objectors, and a warden’s school were situated.


Riding upriver along the Red Deer River, and the picturesque Red Deer River Valley.


Tania Millen with Jewel. Every summer the author seeks out new backcountry trails





fire, and was subsequently extended east down the Red Deer River to government-owned Ya Ha Tinda Ranch beyond the park boundary. It provided a quick route between Banff townsite and Ya Ha Tinda for park vehicles prior to its closure in 1984. We rode past Cuthead Warden Cabin, a one-room overnight warden patrol cabin built in 1931, which is now registered as one of Canada’s historic places. Then we continued past the former site of Cuthead College where a warden station, work camp for World War II conscientious objectors, and a 1950s era warden’s school were situated. Marshy Widmore Lake marked the almost 2,000-metre pass between the Cascade and Panther Rivers and had been dammed by beavers, so the horses had to splash through 0.6 metres of floodwaters then walk over a sketchy beaver dam to regain the road. Finally, we reached the Panther River and a wellused camp with knee-high grazing that thrilled the horses. It was less than a kilometre from where 31 bison were released back into BNP in 2018, the first time bison had traversed the park in over a century, and I hoped to encounter some of the shaggy beasts. Unfortunately, they remained hidden during our trip, so I had to be content knowing that an imperative piece of the park’s ecosystem was back where it belonged.


Over the next few days, we rode north to the Red Deer River then west upriver along peaceful trails, through hordes of horrendous horse flies. One afternoon we arrived in a meadow where I thought there’d be a horse camp, but I couldn’t find any obvious sign of one, so I created a temporary camp for the night. The next morning I spotted a white skull high in a tree — a common marker, along with antlers, for a horse camp. I’d arrived at the right place but had just missed the signpost. About noon on our ninth day, we arrived at the junction of several valleys just east of the popular Skoki area, where I’d planned to camp for one more night. But the horse flies drove us over 30 kilometres that day, out to the trailhead where we’d started the trip. We’d completed a full circle through the central portion of BNP, most of which I hadn’t previously travelled. It was a good summer. During three trips and 19 days on the trail, and through some of the most accessible country in Canada’s southern Rocky Mountains (and the best summer weather of the past 20 years), we hadn’t seen any other horses and riders. The prints I saw were of grizzly bear, bison, elk, moose, mountain goat, beaver, and in places near trailheads, human. Although we met and chatted with several backcountry hikers, every day I essentially just rode or hiked along enjoying the scenery and four-legged company, far from the worries of everyday life. It’s these experiences, plus sharing the wilds with heart-stopping grizzly bears and topping out on remote passes, that I continue to seek every summer. It’s a privilege that I hope more horseback riders enjoy, and in doing so will help keep backcountry trails, campsites, and grazing meadows b open for horses and riders well into the future. > Tania Millen is a regular contributor to this magazine — read her bio on page 83.

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Story and photos by Shawn Hamilton

A river crossing on the day ride from Boundary Hut, New Zealand, on The Land of the Long White Cloud Ride with Wild Women Expeditions. 64





or the first time in a long time, I did not leave my home country, or even my province, at all this past year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last time I packed my helmet and chaps to fly to a new place for an equine adventure was in November 2019, when I travelled to New Zealand for The Land of the Long White Cloud Ride with Wild Women Expeditions. Reflecting on all of the wonderful opportunities I have had in my career as a photojournalist specializing in horseback riding vacation articles, I treasure the memories and am thankful for the opportunities. Experiencing little pockets of the world that the typical tourist never sees and meeting wonderful people from all over the planet with one thing in common — the horse — has been an exciting

Unwinding at The Paradise Spa in Costa Rica. Tents all in a row — glamping in India.





venture. In my opinion, the saddle of a native equine is one of the best seats one could have to breathe the scents, take in the views, and experience the nuances of a different culture. With the pandemic forcing us all to stay close to home, I am sure many of you are itching to get out there once the travel bans are lifted. If a riding vacation is in your future and you are wondering where to go, hopefully I can give you a few things to think about and help you narrow down your options. There is no simple answer to the question: Where should I go? There are so many things to consider before deciding what’s right for you and giving up your hard-earned dollars for that dream vacation on horseback. Start by asking

A demonstration of how coffee is dried at a farm in Viñales Valley, Cuba.

yourself questions about budget, amenities, riding ability, sleeping accommodations, safety, and food.

What can I afford? To help understand the vast range of prices out there, remember that one factor governing what an outfitter charges is the number of services outside of their realm. Hotels, shuttles, meals, and activities off premises often have to be paid in advance and will affect the outfitter’s cost of accommodating you. A vacation with rides that take place on the outfitter’s own or permitted-use land, and that house and feed you on their own premises, will be much more affordable. If you’re on a tight budget, save on airfare

by considering something close to home. Remember that COVID-19 restrictions may also limit you to your native country or demand a two-week isolation period. We all hope these constraints don’t last too much longer. Many outfitters will pick you up at the airport to transport you to their ranch, but if a rental car is needed to get to the location, ask for contact details for other guests to arrange sharing a vehicle. You have already paid for your four-legged transportation, so why pay more money to rent a vehicle that will only sit in the parking lot until you’re ready to go home?

Where do I want to sleep? A well-rested body makes for a more enjoyable ride. If you are going to wake up every morning in pain from sleeping on the floor or on a cot in a tent, will you be comfortable in the saddle all day? Choose what works best for you. If you desire a luxury queen-size bed with fluffy pillows, then don’t sign up for a ten-day camping trip sleeping under the stars — perhaps glamping or a comfy cabin is more your style. Packing into remote locations where luxury accommodations are not available can reveal some spectacular scenery, yet I have experienced some breathtaking views not far from a luxurious, comfy cabin. Figure out what your body can handle. Your comfort is of utmost importance so you will enjoy your vacation.

Camping on the Crossing of the Andes Ride from Chili to Argentina.





What amenities do I need? Not all rides provide flush toilets and hot showers. You may find yourself straddling a hole in the ground with nothing but a nylon screen flapping in the wind to keep your private parts from view. If you prefer privacy or luxury when on the throne, ask about the toilet facilities. I have experienced the full gambit of bathroom options, including flush toilets trailered into our glamping sight in India, with water delivered daily by camel. Some of the best views, however, have been from rustic outhouses in remote areas. Hot showers are never a guarantee. If showers are a must in your daily ritual, be sure to ask in advance. A hot tub is not a necessity but is definitely a welcome perk — and it certainly adds to the experience if freshly made margaritas are on hand. But as long as it is clean, hot, and has jets to soothe aching joints after a long day in the saddle, it’s a bonus. I have even ventured into hot springs that looked a little questionably green.

What do I want to eat? From mutton soup and guinea-pig-ona-stick to sipping Malbec wine at an Argentinean barbeque, the food possibilities are endless. What is your tolerance? Can the outfitter adapt to dietary restrictions? Food is an integral part of pleasing guests and most

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The shrimp-and-smoked-salmon cocktail prepared by Megan, a qualified chef and one of the wranglers at Hunter Valley Station in New Zealand.

keep in your saddlebags for a quick pickme-up between meals. I also bring my own water bottle with a built-in filter system and prefer one that can be easily managed with one hand.

Confident, family-friendly

What is my riding ability?




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outfitters do their best to accommodate, but depending on where you are going, their delicacy may not be your cup of tea. If you are travelling from one location to another in a camp atmosphere, the food may be much more basic than in a fivestar ranch dining room. On the other hand, I have had some excellent meals in the wilderness, including pizza made on an open fire. If you have food allergies be sure to contact the outfitter before you arrive. If you have a delicate system, remember to pack some Imodium. In some countries, meal intervals can be quite lengthy compared to your munching times at home. I recommend bringing some high protein snacks to Loving the hot tub at Rancho Las Cascadas in Mexico.

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Here, honesty is the best policy, and I cannot stress this enough. Being completely truthful about your riding ability and comfort level can make or break your trip. You will be on your mount the bulk of the day, so for the sake of your comfort provide all the information you can to the outfitter. A high-level rider ten years ago who hasn’t been in the saddle for some time is not an expert. Unused riding muscles will not enjoy a high energy or strong horse that jigs the whole time. A walk-trot rider who canters occasionally on a two-hour trail ride twice a week should NOT sign up for The Gobi Gallop in Mongolia. Check the itineraries for the number of hours in the saddle. Are there rest periods at lunch to give your body a break? Or does the adventure of crossing the Andes or galloping 700 kilometres of the Mongolian desert outweigh the aches of long hours in the saddle? On the other hand, you may be disappointed that rides are too short. A day may be eight hours long but may include only two hours in the saddle. Most complaints I have heard from guests are that the rides are not long enough. I did, however, experience

a 13-hour day once and believe me, it was long enough. Be honest with yourself and with the outfitter, and choose what’s best for you. Another factor is the speed of the ride, which can range from a nose-to-tail walk all day to long gallops at a moment’s notice. Keep in mind that the ride has to cater to the least experienced in the group. If you are looking for an adventurous, vigorous ride make sure you are signed up for an advanced ridersonly trek that does not allow beginners. This also works in the reverse. If you prefer a calmer ride, don’t sign up for an advanced rider version and force everyone else to slow down the pace. Again, be candid about your riding abilities, with both yourself and the agency or outfitter, so they can accommodate your needs. Typically, rides that go off-property for several days will give you the first day at home to test your mount. If you are unhappy or uncomfortable with your mount for any reason, let the outfitter know. Outfitters are not mind readers; they can certainly tell if you can’t get your steed to pick up a trot or respond to your stopping and turning aids, but they cannot tell if you are uneasy about the dynamics of the horse they chose for you. Be sure to speak up early so the outfitter has time to resolve the situation before you venture too far from home.

been exceptions. Look at the photos on the website, study the horses’ mood and the fit of the tack. Are the riders wearing helmets and proper footwear? Do your due diligence, check the website, talk to people who have been on the ride, and read the testimonials. If an outfitter asks your weight and has a maximum allowance, it’s a good indication that they care more about the horses than dollars, and will also consider the horses when it comes to tack. At my age, I just might bring one of those comfy sheepskin saddle covers on my next trip, but will need to bring the correct one to fit the saddle I will be using.

What do I want to see, do, and learn? Why does this particular location appeal to you? Are you interested in the culture and history of the country? Do you want to learn team penning, square dancing, fly fishing, or the basics of


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For horses and tack, what will I be comfortable with physically and morally? In my experience, for the most part the tack has been good, but there have A cabana with a thatched roof and a bed with mosquito netting at Mountain Equestrian Trails in Belize.





the bulk of the photos show riders wearing helmets or are they in running shoes with baseball caps? I always bring my own helmet, riding boots, and chaps. If you are uneasy about falling perhaps you would feel more comfortable in a safety vest. LAKE LOUISE, AB

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Photojournalist Shawn Hamilton is eager for pandemic restrictions to ease so she can return to travelling the world in pursuit of adventures on horseback. She is pictured with a friend on the Fall Colors of Vermont Ride.

natural horsemanship? Or do you want to go swimming with your horse? Maybe a retreat to find your inner self or a ride combined with yoga will suit you. Sometimes there are optional activities available in the area that the outfitter or agency can help you find, so look into the non-riding activities.

Who will be guiding me? If your guide speaks your language, and is knowledgeable about the local history and flora and fauna, it will make for a much more entertaining trip. Ask about your guide’s language and knowledge of the area. Ask former guests about their experience. If they praise a certain guide, be sure to ask if that guide will be heading up your trip.

Will I be safe? When looking at photos of rides on an outfitter’s website, watch for guides placed both at the front and back of the riding guests. Look for ratios of guide-toguests. Did the outfitter or agency ask you about your medical insurance and who to call in case of an emergency? Do 70




There are many agencies that specialize in horseback riding vacations all over the world. It is often easier to search through an agency’s website for itineraries and descriptions than to endlessly surf the internet for individual rides. The number one benefit of using an agency is that typically, but not always, one of the agency’s representatives has been on the ride previously. They check for things like amenities, tack, safety, guides, etc. It is often easier to ask the agency questions than trying to get in touch with an outfitter who may be out on the trail for days on end, and not all outfitters can afford to pay someone to sit in an office and answer the phone and email. An agent will most likely already have the answers to your questions. Agencies can also help you book your flight, arrange extra transportation, and can often get discounts for group accommodations and outings outside the ride. And if you are uncomfortable sending money directly to the outfitter in a foreign country, then I suggest you deal with an agency. Due diligence is needed with agencies too — look for testimonials and talk to others who have dealt with them. Some outfitters are not represented by agencies and will only take on customers directly. Remember that agencies take a commission that usually comes out of the outfitter’s pocket. There are many questions to ask yourself and your destination outfitter when planning a riding vacation. I hope this article will help you make the right choices. Personally, I am beyond eager to get out there and support the outfitters that I am sure have suffered during these hard times, and I encourage you to do the same once it’s safe and restrictions are lifted. After you’ve asked all your questions and made your decision, remember that there will always be surprises. So, keep an open mind and bring a sense of humour along with your sense of adventure. Happy Trails! b > Shawn Hamilton is a regular contributor to this magazine — read her bio on page 83.

Checklist for a Comfortable Riding Vacation On any riding vacation, whether it’s camping or glamping, there are a few essentials that I always bring along.



q Riding helmet — I always bring my own

q Hat and gloves for cold nights q Head lamp with extra batteries q Comfortable shoes to

for comfort and safety

q Riding boots — comfortable to ride and walk in, preferably waterproof

q Riding gloves — leather or waterproof q Riding pants — I prefer riding in jodhpurs instead of jeans

q Riding chaps — either full or half or

both depending on space and weather

q Large brim hat for under helmet — or brim that fits onto helmet

q Scarf or bandana for wind and/or dirt and sand and sometimes sun

q Snacks — time between meals can

be a little longer than I am used to

q Snap or button-up long-sleeved

cotton shirts — easier to open or take off

q Tank tops for under shirts q Vest — an extra layer over a shirt if it’s cold

q Rain jacket — not too hot or heavy; some outfitters supply them

q Filter water bottle with clip to attach

to saddle, easy to use with one hand

q Fanny pack for snacks, camera, money, glasses, etc.

q Sunscreen and lip balm q Camera with extra batteries, charger, and cards


q Sheepskin saddle cover —

make sure it fits the saddle you will be using

change into

q Flip flops for shower q Runners or hiking shoes q Enough underwear to change into a fresh pair after riding

q Bathing suit and small towel q Quick dry shirts for


swimming, etc.

q Shammy towel and shampoo q Personal items in Ziplock bags in stuff sac

q Stuff sacs for clothes q Day pack q First aid necessities q Clothesline q Powerful flashlight q Bug repellent q Journal q Binoculars q Bandanas or gloves for guide gifts

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BC Summer Games 2022

The Road to Prince George Starts Now! If you are an Equestrian Athlete competing in Dressage, Jumping, Vaulting, or Eventing and will be 12 to 18 years of age as of January 1, 2022, or if you are a Para Equestrian Athlete, 13 to 30 years of age, you are invited to qualify for the 2022 BC Summer Games being held in Prince George, BC, July 21–24, 2022. Make it your goal and part of your yearly training plan to set your sights on competing at the BC Summer Games!

What Are the BC Summer Games?

The BC Winter and BC Summer Games are British Columbia’s biennial celebration of sport and community. Since 1978, the BC Games have taken place in 38 communities and involved over 350,000 participants and volunteers, and thousands more as spectators and supporters. The purpose of the BC Games is “to provide an opportunity for the development of athletes, coaches, and officials in preparation for higher levels of competition in a multi-sport event which promotes interest and participation in sport and sporting activities, individual achievement, and community development.” The BC Games bring together British Columbia’s best emerging high-performance athletes, trained coaches, and certified officials for three days of competition. This experience is an important development opportunity and stepping-stone towards higher level sport competitions. Host communities of the BC Summer Games will realize a direct economic benefit of over $2 million, while also building volunteer and community capacity and promoting sport and healthy living.

Rise above. Reach beyond. CONTACTS Provincial Sport Organization Equestrian Horse Council BC (HCBC) Provincial Advisor Equestrian Susan Harrison (250) 701-1350

More information, Athlete Declaration Forms, and Technical Packages available at 72





(604) 856-4304


Jodie Bater, 2020 Coach of the Year.

HCBC 2020 AWARD WINNERS HCBC’s Annual Awards honour outstanding achievement within BC’s equine community. These awards acknowledge those who stand out from the crowd and have made a positive impact on the equestrian community. Congratulations to the worthy recipients of the Horse Council BC’s 2020 Awards! Each award winner will receive their award at an event of their own choosing throughout 2021.

2020 Coach of the Year – Jodie Bater

2020 Sherman Olson Lifetime Achievement Award – Frances Teer We received many outstanding nominations this year, so thank you to all who nominated someone and congratulations to our winners.

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Eva Maria Pracht (1937-2021)

Heartfelt condolences are extended to the family and friends of Eva “Evi” Maria Pracht of Stouffville, ON, who passed away on February 15, 2021, at the age of 83. Evi was born into the dressage world as the daughter of German Olympian Josef Neckermann. Just one year after moving to Canada from West Germany in 1981, Evi represented her new home country at a precursor to the World Equestrian Games. In 1984, she made her Olympic debut in Los Angeles riding Little Joe under the red and white banner. While keeping her eyes trained on excellence, Evi opened her arms to all of

Eva Maria Pracht

Canada to introduce them to the then-little-known sport of dressage. Alongside her husband, Hans Pracht, she coaxed the World Championship out of Europe for the first time in 1986. The star-studded event was held at the Pracht’s facility, International Equestrian Sport Services Ltd., in Cedar Valley, Ontario, bringing world-class dressage to Canadian spectators for the first time. Evi herself competed in the World Championship aboard the

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Swedish Warmblood gelding Emirage, placing in the top three. Partnered with Emirage, Evi skyrocketed onto the podium. First, the pair helped the Canadian Dressage Team win gold at the Indianapolis 1987 Pan American Games before capturing team bronze at the Seoul 1988 Olympics. Evi’s last appearance riding for the maple leaf was at the 1991 World Cup. Throughout her athletic career and for decades after, Evi coached other athletes riding for Canada at the highest level, including her daughter, Martina Pracht, who took up the reins on Emirage for the Barcelona 1992 Olympics; fourtime Canadian Olympian and Evi’s Seoul Olympics teammate, Ashley Holzer; and Lima 2019 Pan American Games team and individual gold medalist, Tina

Irwin. Evi’s unwavering passion for the sport, immense depth of knowledge, and constant positivity made her presence ringside much sought after and cherished. “Evi left an indelible mark on our community and her loss is deeply felt nationwide,” says Equestrian Canada CEO, Meg Krueger. “As an athlete, coach, competition organizer, and tireless promoter, she fashioned dressage in Canada into the prosperous sport it is today. We are glad to see many of her students still in the ring, carrying on her teachings and legacy for generations to come.” Evi is survived by her daughter, Martina, and granddaughter, Sabrina von Buttlar, who carries on the family equestrian tradition in the b hunter/jumper ring.



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$3 Million COVID Relief for Ontario Equines First of its kind to try and prevent health and welfare crisis. On January 14, 2021, Ontario Equestrian (OE) announced information about funding being made available to Ontario equestrian facilities experiencing financial hardships affecting animal care. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has approved $3 million to support riding schools, trail riding facilities, and therapeutic riding centres impacted by the pandemic. The application process can be found on the OMAFRA website. Lobbied as a joint effort between OE, Equestrian Canada (EC) and Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), this funding is the first of its kind in the


HOOFBEAT IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII province and country. OE and EC undertook fundraising campaigns at the start of the pandemic to support at-risk teaching horses facing dire health and wellness circumstances. “While OE’s For the Herd campaign, with the incredible support of our membership and the community, was able to raise $213,744 early on, the need for support far outweighs that amount,” explains Tracey McCague-McElrea, OE’s Executive Director. “OE is standing by to help support our members as they go through the application process to access these necessary funds.” Of the estimated 6,328 equine businesses in Ontario, OE projected that 2,212 were at high risk due to finances, supplies, or inability to qualify for existing government relief programs. This is estimated to have affected 11,060 employed equines. “This landmark funding provided by OMAFRA will not only help prevent an animal health and welfare crisis, but it will also help the equestrian facilities

that have been in insurmountable deficit since March [2020],” says Peter Chiddy, President of OE. “These facilities and their school horses are how children and adults get started in equestrian sport.” OE thanks Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman and the staff at OMAFRA, for their on-going support and collaboration on this most critical issue. The funding will be made available through an application process on the OMAFRA website. To learn more and apply, visit — Equine Hardship Program.

On January 21, 2021, Equestrian Canada (EC) announced that Yves Hamelin would step down from his position of Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) on January 29, 2021, before the planned end of his term in November 2021. Hamelin has accepted the position of Vice-President, Performance Services, at l’Institut national du sport du Québec, which represents a wonderful opportunity at this point in his career. EC President Meg Krueger, who has a wealth of experience in the equestrian industry across North America, would also step down as President and take on the leadership role as CEO. According to EC bylaws, Vice President Chris Sorensen will become President until the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in October 2021. Krueger’s career in the equestrian industry spans 20 years, during which she managed equestrian venues and 76




Meg Krueger

events, as well as developed programs from the grassroots to International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) level across several disciplines. Krueger helped pioneer the Canadian Jumper Development Series and was a member of the Canadian Breeds and Industry Council. She acted as the Chief Operating Officer of the Colorado Horse Park in Denver, CO, and Vice President of Sales and Sponsorship for Equestrian Sport


New Leadership at Equestrian Canada

Productions in Wellington, FL. Krueger brings to the role her passion for strengthening sport and industry in Canada and fostering strong community relationships and corporate partnerships. Since the EC Board began the search for a CEO and engaged Hamelin in the interim position in October 2019, EC, like so many others, has endured enormous challenges due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Under Krueger’s tireless leadership and in close collaboration with key stakeholders, we will continue to strengthen EC and equestrian organizations across the country without delay. “EC would like to recognize the work Yves has contributed to the development of our national federation over the past two years. We wish him the best of luck in his new role,” says Sorensen. “I would like to thank everyone I had the chance to work with in my role since my arrival, including [the] EC Board of Directors for their trust,” says Hamelin. “I would like to recognize the work of my colleagues and partners for their support and the work carried out during these difficult times.”



Rich Fellers on SafeSport Suspension List


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By Canadian Horse Journal On February 9, 2021, the US Center for SafeSport placed Richard R. (Rich) Fellers on interim suspension pending the outcome of a formal investigation and final decision into “allegations of misconduct.” His wife, Shelley Fellers, was also placed on interim suspension. Rich Fellers is the 2012 Jumping World Cup Champion and United States team rider at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Rich, 61, and Shelley, 54, operate Rich Fellers Stables LLC in Oregon City, Oregon. The allegations resulting in a “no contact directive” were made by junior rider and Rich’s former student, Maggie Kehring, 18. On her Facebook page, Kehring posted an explanation of why she went to SafeSport: “I know it is hard for my peers, friends, coaches, and strangers to understand the suspension of my former trainer and his wife. It is important to know this investigation and process has been underway for many, many months. I initially didn’t want to participate in the SafeSport process out of confusion and fear. I struggled with the thought the world would know that what occurred to me for many years would lead to someone America came to love to possibly be banned from the sport. Reading what people have posted on social media is cruel and heartless. I can only hope what happened to me never happens to them or someone they love. No one needs to take sides.”

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Rich Fellers competing on Flexible in the 2010 BMO Nations’ Cup at Spruce Meadows, Alberta.



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Quarter Horse Racing in Canada Rallies to Clinch 2020 Honours By Laurie Haughton, Chair, CQHA Media, Marketing & Communications Committee

Eyesa Timber winning the Alberta Bred Futurity on September 25, 2020 at Century Mile Racetrack and Casino, Edmonton, Alberta

Horse racing in Canada, like all sectors of equine sport, was forced to make some serious concessions last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarter Horse racing, although a small market in Canada compared to Standardbred and Thoroughbred racing, does have a thriving industry which can boast some of the richest races in all of Quarter Horse racing and a significant historical legacy in Canada. Life at the track saw a major cultural change, with health regulations impacting the way the sport of horse racing was carried out. Racing was the first professional sport to successfully return to its regular season, although a shortened one. As a result, horse racing in Canada and globally reached new audiences because horse racing was one of the few sports that could return to regular airing by broadcasters. It set an example to all professional sports of how to return safely in the era of the pandemic. New audiences and established fans were given a lot to cheer about in 2020 within in the world of Quarter Horse racing here in Canada. Here is just one example: Free Thought, the reigning American Quarter Horse Association’s (AQHA) world record holding Quarter Horse for most consecutive wins, extended his record to 18 straight wins in August 2020. The 2011 bay gelding, adored by fans as “Big Ed,” began his winning streak in April of 2018. He is trained by Canadian William Leech and owned by Charles Stojan of Grande Prairie, Alberta. The AQHA Canadian Champion of the Year went to freshman Eyesa Timber. The two-year-old gelding was bred and is owned by Wesley Oulton of Alberta. With

impressive performances in 2020 on tracks in both the United States and Canada, the 2018 gelding claimed wins at the Alberta Bred Futurity and the Canada Quarter Horse Cup Futurity. Owner trained, Eyesa Timber finished the 2020 season with a record of seven starts: 4(2)-2-0 and earnings of $56,491 USD, racing at distances from 250 yards to 400 yards. The owner/trainer team of Charles Stojan and William Leech had a number of achievements to celebrate in 2020 with three impressive horses that dominated the racetracks in Alberta during the season — Stripstreak, Flight Club, and Light Footed. All three qualified for the AQHA’s Bank of America Challenge Championships held October 24, 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In doing so, Stojan was crowned the High Point AQHA Challenge Owner Of The Year, and Leech was named the High Point AQHA Challenge Trainer Of The Year, both very coveted honours in the world of Quarter Horse Racing internationally. Country Boy 123 became the richest Quarter Horse racehorse in Canada, reaching the half million dollar benchmark in career earnings in 2020. Owned by Ruth Barbour of Hillsburg, Ontario the 2013 bay gelding has won 27 races at eight different distances during his impressive career. Ten-year-old Quarter Horse One Famous Glass owned by Hillerin Farm of Hillsburgh, Ontario, a past AQHA champion, returned victorious to the track after being retired in 2018. Cody Sabilla,





age 13, the grandson of the horse’s owners, began breezing the 2010 gelding back in the spring of 2020. It became obvious that “Eagle” wanted to return to his former racing aptitude, and with the help of his grandfather trainer Bryn Robinson, Cody prepared the horse to not only return to the track but cross the finish line in impressive time and form. Cody was named the Canadian Quarter Horse Association’s Youth Rising Star of the Year in part due to this success. Canadian Quarter Horse breeder Wesley Oulton of Olds, Alberta, consigned the high selling yearling O Tuxedo; the black gelding sold to Preston Crow Chief of Lethbridge, Alberta, at the 2020 Alberta Quarter Horse Racing Association’s Canada Quarter Horse Cup Yearling Sale, held September 18 in Red Deer, Alberta. The sale is the most prestigious and richest in Canada. To read more about these and other 2020 successes earned by American Quarter Horses in Canada please log onto the Canadian Quarter Horse Association’s website > The horse pictured in the CQHA article on page 82 of Canada’s Equine Guide 2021 is Chicota Whiz, and not Spooks Big Bang. The rider is Brianna Carr. Thank you to Brianna Carr for bringing this to our attention.

For more information about the Canadian Quarter Horse Association please visit or email Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @cndquarterhorseassoc, and on Twitter @ CndQuarterHorse.



The Pathway from Therapeutic Riding to Para-Equestrian

stable and on a familiar horse. This is a wonderful opportunity for riders with a disability who have competitive riding goals and a strong competitive drive. During 2021, the BC Therapeutic Riding Association will also be holding a paraequestrian video competition with classes in pole bending, barrel racing, obstacles, para-jumping, equitation, horsemanship, para-reining, and para-driving. This will be another opportunity for riders with a disability to make the progression from therapeutic riding to para-equestrian in a broad range of equestrian disciplines. Riders with disabilities can also request to take part in local horse shows. Many organizers will make a concerted effort to be inclusive and to offer opportunities for para-equestrians. The pathway from therapeutic riding to para-equestrian and onwards to competition can begin with a video competition or participation in a local show. Encouragement for riders with disabilities from the wider equestrian community is of great value and helps riders move from disability to ability.

By Christine Ross, CanTRA Vice President

The term “para” means parallel and para-equestrian refers to equestrian sport for riders who have a disability. ParaDressage is a Paralympic sport and Canada has a strong team competing on the world stage. For a person with a disability, riding often begins at one of CanTRA’s therapeutic riding centres that are spread across Canada. CanTRA’s instructors and coaches are able to introduce riding to those with disabilities in a way that is both safe and knowledgeable, on horses that are well-trained and good-natured. Many riders with disabilities ride for many years at therapeutic riding centres and, over time, become very accomplished. For some of these riders, the opportunity to be able to move on to para-equestrian is very important. The therapeutic riders of today become the para-equestrian riders of the future, if they wish to take that route. It takes longer for a rider with a disability to progress their riding, but with the right help and assistance they can see steady progress and skill development. Para-Dressage Canada has a video competition series, which will continue throughout 2021, that allows a rider to compete and experience riding in a competition in the comfort of their home


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. — LAO TZU


Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association

Rider Keely Vokey aboard Boone (owned by Marsha Clarke) at Rainbow Riders Therapeutic Riding Centre.

For more information or to find a centre near you please contact our Head Office at Follow us on Facebook @ Cantra_ACET and visit > or donate at >

Nathan Chaulk rides Arwen (owned by Jayne Carter) at Rainbow Riders Therapeutic Riding Centre in St. John’s, NL. Support crew (L-R): Erin O’Reilly (instructor), Emily MacGregor (leader), Madison James (side walker), Jaiden Green (side walker).





Manitoba Horse Council Serving Manitoba’s Equine Community

By Linda Hazelwood, MHC Business Manager and ex-Recreation Chair

AGM and Board of Directors 2021 Elections


MHC’s Coaching Committee is taking full advantage of Zoom technology, and after 15 sessions of Equestrian Canada Certification advice and Mini Master Classes over the winter, they have planned another six information sessions in March/April, a business webinar in mid-March, and an EC Coach Licensing information session late March. Over the Easter weekend (April 9-11) three full days of Coaching Camp are planned for English and Western disciplines at all levels, followed on April 18 with one-on-one Zoom mentoring sessions with those wishing to work in more detail. The beauty of these courses is that although they are founded on the knowledge base of Equestrian Canada coaches, they are useful information for riders of many levels and disciplines. Information is updated on MHC’s website and Facebook page.

How to Reach Us Manitoba Horse Council, 145 Pacific Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B 2Z6 PHONE (204) 925-5719 EMAIL WEBSITE FACEBOOK Manitoba Horse Council; Manitoba Recreational Riders 80




online, and like so many other individuals and companies we have embraced the technology and forged ahead. Sometimes, other companies hold meetings by Adobe Connect or Microsoft Teams, and we sigh as we have to relearn where the audio and video buttons are, and how to share screens and chat. Just like last April’s event on Zoom, the 2021 AGM will also be on Zoom and all MHC members are invited. Whether through life changes or change of job direction, this year MHC is searching for people to fill a number of places on its Board of Directors, and we welcome nominations from our membership. Chairs of Breeds & Industry and Competitions plus Directors-at-Large are the main options,

but we also welcome people to give support to Chairs on subcommittees. Since our meetings intend to include Zoom even when face-to-face is allowed again, we can easily welcome nominations from any geographical area of Manitoba. Visit the MHC website for the Board of Directors list and nomination form at – About Us tab. Deadline for submissions is March 19. MHC Club members of all levels and disciplines are eagerly preparing for a summer of competitions.


Looking even further forward, MHC Clubs are optimistic for a summer of competitions in all disciplines. Those who have booked (and plan to book) at our Birds Hill Park Equestrian Facility can check out the stripped, re-laid and graded dressage ring, supported by a substantial contribution from Dressage Winnipeg. A full slate of competitions (including the new-for-2021 Arabian Horse Show in July) is posted on MHC’s website on its Calendar of Events. The beautiful Birds Hill Park Equestrian Facility boasts six sand rings, two grass rings, two barns with 97 stalls, plus outdoor and overflow stabling and many other amenities.


In Canada’s Equine Guide published in February 2021, Manitoba Horse Council (MHC) reported on A Bright Outlook for 2021 and the recreation activities highlighted at MHC’s Council of Clubs. This Council is very important, almost the lifeblood of MHC, as our 24 member clubs have a solid say in the direction of the Council at two meetings every year. One meeting is the Council of Clubs in November (reported in Canada’s Equine Guide 2021). The second meeting of the Council is participation at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), slated for April 15, 2021, as a Zoom meeting. At the 2020 AGM, MHC was tentatively nibbling at the edges of Zoom; it was the first big meeting we were forced to hold


Freestyle The Ultimate Guide to Riding, Training, and Competing to Music By Sandra Beaulieu Published by Trafalgar Square Books/ 286 pages. Paperback, Kindle Reviewed by Margaret Evans Sandra Beaulieu was your typical horsecrazy kid except for one thing. She loved watching Olympic dressage riders, but she didn’t like the music they chose for their Freestyle tests, so she set up a boombox and played her own while she watched. “I was that odd kid who collected movie soundtracks instead of the popular music of the day,” she writes in her book Freestyle. “I was involved in dressage, jumping, and Pony Club as a teenager, but when I saw Robert Dover’s famous One Moment in Time exhibition Freestyle, I was obsessed.” That obsession led to multiple awards, distinction as a Masters Graduate of the Isaac Royal Academy of Classical Dressage, and a career as an awardwinning musical Freestyle designer. Riding to music is an amazing performance to watch. But riding to the right music, harmonized specifically to the movements and gaits of the horse, is a rare and profound experience. “In order to understand the benefits of riding to music, you need to know how to choose music that matches your horse’s stride,” Beaulieu writes. “If you are like most riders, you have heard people mention ‘BPM’ before and you may be a little confused about what that means.” BPM, or beats per minute, is the number of footfalls your horse takes in one minute. “The reason this is important is that it helps you narrow your music choices to songs that have the greatest potential to match your horse’s stride.” She explains the mechanism of finding your horse’s BPM with coloured leg wraps, or having an assistant use a stopwatch or a timer to record the number of footfalls of the lead leg in one minute. Choreographing your ride can be challenging given the movements and gait

changes expected. But choreography, she says, is weighted heavily in the artistic scores of the Freestyle test, as it demonstrates a rider’s ability to showcase a horse. A Freestyle that feels like a regular dressage test is not interesting to watch or judge. Well thought-out choreography will demand the full use of the arena with symmetry in mind, a cohesive design of required movements, and creativity that incorporates unique lines and sequences not seen in standard dressage tests. “Think of your Freestyle as a story,” she suggests. “There is an introduction, a journey of ups and downs associated to the music and the gaits, and there is a definite ending.” The book includes choreography for both classical dressage and Western dressage, as well as an excellent section on editing music. She includes information on software for editing, such as GarageBand or Audacity. The time spent working efficiently with sound editing software is essential for your Freestyle presentation in order to create a musical piece designed specifically for your presentation and your horse’s specific movements. The book is liberally illustrated with colour photographs and diagrams for specific movements, and features interviews with other top Freestyle riders. In addition, Beaulieu provides approaches to choreographing rides for both competition and exhibitions. Music, she writes, can be used not only for Freestyle dressage but for casual or training purposes. For fun and inspiration, she encourages the use of playlists, which can be played on an iPhone or on a surround sound system in the barn. Music not only soothes the mind and improves the mood but, by association, it will relax a horse leading to greater harmony and focus. “Sometimes I ride to epic soundtrack music and imagine that we are in a movie scene. This gives added energy and purpose to my riding.” For anyone interested in riding to music, this book is a must-have guide. b



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Core Conditioning for Horses Yoga-inspired Warm-up Techniques: Increase Suppleness, Improve Bend, and Unlock Optimal Movement By Visconte Simon Cocozza Published by Trafalgar Square Books/ 296 pages. Hardcover, Kindle Reviewed by Margaret Evans

CAPE LITE (SOFIE ) • 2015 • 16 HH • BAY • MARE Lovely mare, athletic, good mind, moves nicely. Happy to learn, good for farrier/vet. Starting ground work skills and under saddle at walk/trot in arena.


Dedicated to finding adoptive homes and new careers for former Thoroughbred racehorses. 778-985-5673 •


There are many wonderful places in the world, but one of my favourite places is on the back of my horse. ROLF KOPFLE 82




Think yoga, and people will think of an ancient mind-body practice of breathing, meditation, and relaxation of Indian origin. Now, a fascinating book has applied specific yoga-inspired exercises to transform any horse or pony’s body into the peak of suppleness and athletic ability. Core Conditioning for Horses by Visconte Simon Cocozza is an absolute delight to read and learn from. It is generously illustrated with charts, diagrams, and colour photographs. Many of the photos are enhanced with overlays of threedimensional arrows and indicators that further illustrate the specific point being made. And the text is broken up with philosophical statements from great minds such as Leonardo da Vinci and, more whimsically, Star Wars’ Yoda. “Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by the mechanical complexity inside the horse’s body,” writes Cocozza. “He was looking for the ‘magic’ behind the muscle.” The book is all about finding and nurturing that magic. “Most serious riders have felt that magic that lives inside a horse. In that breathtaking moment when a horse is physically and mentally ‘free’ under the saddle, you get to become part of a true wonder of the world; the equine’s athletic magic in motion.” Cocozza lives in Normandy, is a statecertified examiner for la Fédération Française d’Equitation (FFE), and specializes in applied equine biomechanics. He has taken the principles of yoga and used them to develop novel ways to reach inside the horse with core fitness exercises. The book starts with focusing on the back, where all movement begins. “When the horse lacks strength in his core muscles, his back can no longer be ‘round,’ no matter how the horse’s head is positioned, and he becomes literally ‘hollow’ under the saddle.”

He writes that the equine spine is particularly responsive to yoga’s principles because it uses a full range of lateral, vertical, and rotational movements to deliberately reach every little joint and muscle along its length, activating all the components of this complicated three-dimensional bio-puzzle. He provides five core indicators to evaluate your level of riding experience with your horse. They include rideability (how easy is he to ride?); suppleness (how flexible is he?); soundness (how stable, agile, and regular is he?); head, neck, and mouth (how supple, soft, and light is he?); and the ridden mindset (is he alert, lazy, or crazy?). Ten detailed and illustrated exercises provide guidance starting with the four core warm-up plans covering connection, flexibility, wellness, and agility. Exercise #1 is the halfmoon pose, or core release volte. “This is the simplest, gentlest, and most useful back stretch of all,” he writes. “This exercise is both easy to do and master and it almost immediately gives the core its freedom.” The half-moon pose is the human equivalent of the horse’s core release volte. It shows the horse how easy it is for him to bend through the body a little more each day. Basically, it’s a bend on a six-metre volte circle that creates the idea spinal angle to release the horse’s core and round the back. Two circles side-by-side create a figure-8 design for the horse to bend in both directions and gently release many back stiffnesses. The exercises build to include the turn on the forehand (yoga half-split); forward, down, and out (yoga cat pose), which replicates the grazing position; forward and back (yoga balancing table pose); and so on. Each one is fully explained, shows how it helps the horse, shows the human yoga equivalent, and includes commentary from other experts with their own equine core evaluation stories and inputs. This informative book is helpful, not only from a practical point of view but from a philosophical one, to guide horse owners in the best course of action as it relates to their horses’ individual needs. For riders focused on a quality core conditioning program, Core Conditioning for Horses is an ideal addition to their library. b


Tania Millen is a former Canadian Team groom, a trained scientist, an environmental consultant, a former event rider turned backcountry rider, and an author of several books including Pack em Up, Ride em Out: Classic Horse Pack Trips in British Columbia and Alberta; The Joys of Horse Packing; Rockin’ Whitewater; and Go Horse Camping: A funny illustrated guide to camping with your horse.

Shawn Hamilton Shawn Hamilton is a freelance equine photojournalist based in Ontario, Canada. She has operated Clix Photography since 1984, offering a full range of photography services for editorial and commercial use from health to Olympic sports. Her photography can be found on the covers and inside numerous magazines in Canada and the US, including Canadian Horse Journal. Shawn has co-authored four non-fiction children’s books published by Scholastic Canada. Her written articles specialize in equestrian travel.

Alexa Linton

A modern-day cowgirl with a mission, Alexa Linton is known for lighting up her world with her infectious personality, bold facilitation style, often irreverent tonguein-cheek writing, and her menagerie of a therapy practice. With over 12 years of experience working with horses as an equine sports therapist, as well as thousands of other animals and people, Alexa has developed a therapeutic style that is both intuitive and highly collaborative. She is the co-founder of the Cowgirl Re-union, the creator of the Whole Horse Apprenticeship, author of Death Sucks: A Straight-Up Guide to Navigating Your Pet’s Final Transition, and co-steward of Firefly Farm, in the gorgeous Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, where she lives with her horse Diva, dogs Reilly and Kia, and cat, Parker. Alexa is currently a fifth year student of human osteopathy.

Shelagh Niblock PAS

Shelagh Niblock PAS is an equine nutritionist with an extensive background in both ruminant and equine nutrition as well as forage science as it relates to both horses and dairy cattle. She has spent more than 35 years in the feed industry in British Columbia and her lengthy experience working initially as a dairy nutritionist piqued her interest in the nutritional contribution made by forages to the diets of our horses. Shelagh currently practices as an equine nutritional consultant offering advice on the successful feeding and husbandry of horses. Shelagh also teaches Equine Production as well as Ruminant Health at the University of the Fraser Valley. Shelagh is a horse owner herself and an enthusiastic pleasure rider who is especially interested in the disciplines of Mountain Trail, Dressage and Three-Day Eventing. Shelagh is active as a volunteer in the 4-H program in BC, BC Pony Club, and is a member of the Board of Directors at Circle F Horse Rescue, a registered nonprofit horse rescue in Abbotsford, BC. She is a member of the Equine Science Society, the American Dairy Science Association, the American Society of Animal Science, and the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists.

Annika McGivern

Annika McGivern is a Mental Performance Consultant who grew up as a Three-DayEvent rider in British Columbia. Her passion for eventing took her to Ireland, Australia, and America as a working student to world class riders, where she developed a keen interest in the psychological side of sport and performance. Annika has a BA in Psychology, an MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology, and seven years experience as a certified Equestrian Canada Competition Coach. Annika works with athletes and coaches, in person and online, to help them find enjoyment and satisfaction in their sport through achieving their best possible results and outcomes.

Jec Aristotle Ballou

Jec Aristotle Ballou trains in Santa Cruz, CA, when not giving clinics around the United States. She is the author of 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider, Equine Fitness, and 101 Western Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider. For further resources on the above topics, she recommends Beyond Horse Massage by Jim Masterson. Jec’s newly published book, 55 Corrective Exercises for Horses, helps resolve chronic postural imbalances and challenges that inhibit many performance horses.

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Riding for Freedom

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A champion jockey won some of the world’s biggest races. But away from the track, he was racing for his life. By Eurico Rosa da Silva Self-published, 2020

From time to time, Canadian Horse Journal makes its names and addresses available to carefully screened organizations who want to let you know about a product or service that might interest you. If you do not want your name, address, or email address made available, please let us know.

Non-fiction. 176 pages. Hardcover Reviewed by Tania Millen But horses didn’t permanently banish da Silva’s demons, and he eventually broke down and asked for professional help to win his internal battles. After a few false starts, da Silva recounts the difficult mental, emotional, and physical work that eventually set him free, and allowed him to retire with his mental health intact, in 2019. By detailing the unlikely life of a poor boy from an obscure town in Brazil, who overcomes significant emotional challenges to become a champion professional rider in the affluent world of Thoroughbred racing, da Silva provides a path for others to follow. Perhaps just as importantly, by sharing the behind-the-scenes reality of his life, da Silva unveils some of the darkness surrounding mental health in the wealthy equestrian world, and in doing so becomes an advocate for maintaining healthy congruency between our internal and external lives — something that horses and riders intuitively understand. Ultimately, Riding for Freedom is a beautifully produced book which captures da Silva’s raw struggles and victorious career in riveting detail, and illustrates how he eventually b finds freedom.

Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads. 84



SPRING 2021 EMAIL: PHONE: 1-800-299-3799 OR (250) 655-8883

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Horse lovers enthralled by the moneyed world of Thoroughbred racing will be fascinated by Eurico Rosa da Silva’s account of how he transformed from a poor Brazilian boy into a world-class jockey, earning over US$150 million in prize money and Canada’s annual Sovereign Award for Outstanding Jockey seven times. But Riding for Freedom isn’t just the rags-to-riches tale of a talented rider. In his memoir, da Silva shares how he grappled with incessant demons — debilitating asthma, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, anger, worthlessness, gambling, and sexual compulsions — throughout his storied career. One moment he was winning Canada’s $1 million Queen’s Plate race at Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario for the second time, the next moment he was berating himself for being worthless and succumbing to his demons. Fast-moving and easy to read, this book details how a teenaged boy with no horse experience left his ultra-religious mother and abusive father to become Brazil’s top apprentice jockey at age 17. Well-liked by his peers and known for easy-going generosity and skilled riding, he hid his negativity and self-doubt from all. Da Silva says, “When I was with the horses, the pain of not being good enough went away.” He recounts how talking to multi-million dollar racehorses was his therapy, saying, “If I don’t feel good, I talk to the horse. He became my psychologist.”


Phone (all depts): 1-800-299-3799 (250) 655-8883 Fax line (all depts): (250) 655-8913 Mail: Suite 202, 2400 Bevan Avenue, Sidney, BC, V8L 1W1 b


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References: [1] Nogradi N, Couetil LL, Messick J, Stochelski MA, Burgess JA. Evaluation of an Omega-3 Fatty Acid Containing Feed Supplement in the Management of Horses with References: Chronic Lower Airway Inflammatory Diseases. J Vet Intern Med 2015; 29:299-306. [1] N, Couetil LL,J.M, Messick J, Stochelski MA,Leguillette Burgess JA. Evaluation an Omega-3 Fatty Acid Containing Feed Supplement in the Management ofVet Horses with [2] Nogradi Couetil LL, Cardwell Gerber V, Lavoie J.-P, R, Richard E.A.ofInflammatory Airway Disease of Horses. ACVIM Consensus Statement J of Intern Med 2016; 30:503-515 p. 508-510. Chronic Lower Airway Inflammatory Diseases. J Vet Intern Med 2015; 29:299-306. [2] Couetil LL, Cardwell J.M, Gerber V, Lavoie J.-P, Leguillette R, Richard E.A. Inflammatory Airway Disease of Horses. ACVIM Consensus Statement J of Vet Intern Med 2016; 30:503-515 p. 508-510.

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